Final phase of Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE tests rapid, unmanned, high resolution mapping of the sea floor

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:
UK's Team Tao are one of the final eight teams in the finals of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE

It has been announced that the deep sea off Kalamata, Greece, has been chosen as the field testing location for finalist teams competing in the $7m Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. Deep sea, real-world testing is a key stage in the three-year global competition challenging teams to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration and discovery.

In this final field-testing round for the Grand Prize of the competition, which starts in November and runs through December, the teams – including British entry, Team Tao – have up to 24 hours to map at least 250km2 of the seafloor to depths down to 4000m and at 5m resolution with restricted human intervention identifying and imaging at least 10 archaeological, biological or geological features at any depth.

Jyotika Virmani, prize lead and senior director of XPRIZE’s Planet and Environment team, said: “The teams are creating breakthrough technologies designed to operate in extreme conditions, with the goal of rapidly mapping an area that has not previously been mapped at such high resolution; we are providing the teams with an environment that is full of mystery and geological features that will offer a true test of their technologies.”

At the end of the competition, a $4m Grand Prize and $1m Second Place Prize will be awarded to the teams that receive the top scores for demonstrating the highest resolution seafloor mapping. After the competition has ended, the high-resolution seafloor map will be used by the National Centre of Scientific Research Demokritos, the largest research centre in Greece, and their Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics as part of a worldwide scientific collaboration to establish a new generation Neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean.

A secondary test location to support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) $1m Bonus Prize will take place in early 2019. Competing teams will demonstrate that their technology can “sniff out” a specified object in the ocean by tracing a biological or chemical signal to its source.


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