Humanity has explored of the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That's a number XPRIZE hopes to change. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is a three-year global competition challenging teams to advance and develop technologies for rapid, unmanned, and high-resolution ocean exploration. The goal? To build robots that can create a map and then photograph various items underwater.
After a culling in Round 1, XPRIZE has announced the nine remaining competitors for Round 2, in which the undersea drones will have to capture an image of a "specifically named item at 4,000 meters," with a bonus for identifying 10 other archaeological/geological/biological features.
“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,” says Dr. Jyotika Virmani, 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 (2.48 miles) depths - that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon!”
Here are the nine teams who have made it to the second and final round:
There are a wide variety of approaches to the same problem, and not all of them involve going all the way underwater. Duke's team wants to use an while other teams' endeavors focus around surface vessels that can peer towards the bottom with lasers, or communicate with deeper diving drones. The Arggonauts, meanwhile, want to use a more , the British Team Tao wants to build , GEBCO-NF is thinking of using at the same. Information about all the teams can be found on the .
They're fighting for a $4 million prize for first place, with $1 million going to the second place team (if there's no second place, the winner get $5 million) with bonus money coming from NOAA.
The final testing will take place later in October and November when the teams will send their robots out into the open ocean. Testing for the NOAA bonus money will begin as early as this spring.
While the last heavily-hyped XPRIZE ended without a winner, the expanded list of finalists here (as opposed to Google Prize's 5) seems like a reason for optimism. Who knows what they might find down there.