Courtesy of XPRIZE.

XPRIZE announced nine teams who advance to the final round in the US$7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. Each finalist will receive an equal share of a US$1 million milestone prize purse for their cutting-edge ocean mapping and imaging technologies.

XPRIZE provide resources to help solve humanity’s grand challenges. The $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is a 3-year global competition meant to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration.

The teams developed innovative approaches that include artificial intelligence, aerial drones, underwater robotic swarms, lasers, and autonomous surface and underwater vehicles. They will be awarded at Oceanology International’s Catch the Next Wave conference in London on March 15th.

Round 1 testing for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE allowed the judges to see, for the first time, tangible prototypes of the innovative and diverse approaches that will revolutionize our access to the deep ocean and finally unveil the mysteries that lie deep below the sea-surface,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., prize lead and senior director of Planet and Environment at XPRIZE. “As we dive into Round 2, we are looking forward to testing the finalists’ technologies in a rigorous real-world world situation that will demonstrate their ability to rapidly map the ocean floor at 4000m depths—that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon.

The XPRIZE finalists include:

ARGGONAUTS from Karlsruhe, Germany is led by Gunnar Brink and is creating one swarm in the deep-sea and one on the ocean surface. Five or more intelligent deep-sea robot drones will be accompanied and supported by the same number of autonomous catamarans for geo-referencing, retrieval and transport.

Blue Devil Ocean Engineering from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina is led by Martin Brooke and is working with heavy lift aerial drones that drop retrievable diving SONAR pods.

CFIS from Arnex-sur-Nyon, Switzerland is led by Toby Jackson and is building a fleet of AUVs to map and image the ocean floor using lasers.

GEBCO-NF Alumni is led by GEBCO-Nippon Foundation alumni, a 12-nation team that is integrating existing technologies and ocean-mapping experience with an innovative unmanned surface vessel to contribute towards comprehensive mapping of the ocean floor by 2030.

KUROSHIO from Yokosuka, Japan is led by Takeshi Nakatani and is integrating technologies owned by Japanese universities, institutes and companies for a unique collaborative approach centered around AUVs.

PISCES from Portugal is led by Nuno Cruz and is aggregating Portuguese technologies developed at INESC TEC (Porto) and CINTAL (Algarve) to create the PISCES system that leverages cooperative robotics.

Team Tao from Newcastle, United Kingdom is led by Dale Wakeham and is developing an autonomous swarm system for rapid surface to deep ocean exploration.

Texas A&M Ocean Engineering from College Station, Texas and is led by students who are working in partnership with industry and successful alumni of Texas A&M to use drone ships and AUVs to explore remote ocean habitats.

Virginia DEEP-X from Virginia is led by Dan Stilwell and is developing small and low-cost underwater vehicles that operate in coordinated teams.

Improving humanity’s ability to gather, visualize and interpret deep ocean data using new digital techniques while collaborating with some of the brightest minds is exciting. These nine finalist teams are a testament to the strength of open innovation through teamwork,” said Marc Gerrits, executive vice president of Exploration, Shell. “We believe that innovation and collaboration are fundamental if we are to solve some of the biggest challenges facing society today.”

To advance to the final round, the semifinalist teams had to pass a Round 1 Technology Readiness Test, which comprised of site visits to each team by XPRIZE staff and judges. The teams were tested against 11 measurement criteria to show their technological solutions were capable of meeting the operational requirements necessary for rapid, unmanned, and high-resolution ocean mapping and discovery. Esri, the global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software and geo-database management, donated its award-winning ArcGIS Online platform for the teams to use, enabling the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competitors to submit their maps to the judges via Esri ArcGIS Online.

The final Round 2 testing will take place during October and November of 2018. Finalists will have an opportunity to demonstrate their technologies in the real-world in a deep-sea environment, where they will have to map the sea floor at 4000m depth and bring back 10 images from the ocean. Fugro, an industry leader in ocean mapping and another partner to the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, will assist XPRIZE in providing the competition’s high-resolution baseline bathymetry data that are needed in judging team mapping results.

A preliminary test of the US$1 million NOAA Bonus Prize will take place during Spring 2018. This will give all semifinalist teams who have opted to participate a platform to test their technologies. The winners of the NOAA Bonus Prize, which incentivizes the development of technologies that can detect a chemical or biological signal underwater and autonomously track it to its source, will be determined during Round 2 testing in October and November 2018.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is part of the XPRIZE Ocean Initiative, a commitment made to launch five multi-million dollar prizes to address critical ocean challenges and make the oceans healthy, valued, and understood.

For more information, visit oceandiscovery.xprize.org.

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