Robotic vehicles and advanced AI. Swarms of autonomous submarines and mapping pods launched from the air and sea — all working at depths down to 4,000 meters. Cold, dark and at pressures that are up to 400 times greater than the pressure at sea level. There’s $7 million on the line, and the first teams have already registered in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
This global competition is challenging teams to advance ocean technologies for rapid and unmanned ocean exploration. The teams that are in the game range from engineering and marine biology students from universities big and small to large scale, multi-country virtual groups, all looking to complete a series of tasks including mapping the seafloor; producing high-resolution images of a specific object; and identifying archaeological, biological, or geological features.
Registration for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is still underway until September 30, but the first-on-board teams demonstrate the diversity of approaches to push the boundaries of ocean technologies by creating solutions that advance the autonomy, scale, speed, depths and resolution of ocean exploration.
Each team is taking a different approach to innovation.
One team is the Blue Devil Ocean Engineering Team, comprised of Duke University undergraduate and graduate students, are developing a large triply redundant drone to drop low cost sonar mapping pods, and potentially sea gliders, that will descend and return to the surface to be picked up by the drone and repeatedly deployed. The goal has strong experience with ocean sensor pods from their participation in previous XPRIZE ocean-related competitions like the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE.
Another is the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Team or GEBCO-2455 — a group of scholars spanning 34 countries, and is possibly the largest international collaborative team to enter any XPRIZE competition. As the only global entity responsible for producing maps of the sea floor, GEBCO recently announced Sea Floor 2030, which will map the entire sea floor at a higher resolution by 2030. Their XPRIZE activities will align with that goal.
Only 5% of the ocean has been explored … so essentially, we actually know more about the surface of Mars than we know about the ocean floor.
Get more information on the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE at oceandiscovery.xprize.org.