$7M Prizes Offered For Ocean Explorers

Shell and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offer $7 million for teams that can develop a robot to explore the ocean down to 13,123 feet.

(Image credit: XPrize Ocean Discovery)
(Image credit: XPrize Ocean Discovery)

Space may be the ultimate unknown, but the ocean is a place of mystery and danger right here on Earth. A new XPrize, sponsored by Shell and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), offers $7 million in total for teams that can develop a robot to explore the ocean down to 13,123 feet (4,000 meters.)

โ€œOur oceans cover two-thirds of our planetโ€™s surface and are a crucial global source of food, energy, economic security, and even the air we breathe, yet 95 percent of the deep sea remains a mystery to us,โ€ Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation said in a statement. โ€œIn fact, we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of our own seafloor. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize will address a critical ocean challenge by accelerating innovation to further explore one of our greatest unexplored frontiers.โ€

The deadline for registration is June 2016. In June, the 25 selected teams will compete in two rounds, one in mid-2017 and one in late 2018. Final prizes will be awarded in December of 2018.

In order to explore the ocean floor, the technology developed by the teams must be mostly autonomous, and be able to compete several timed tasks at depth, including producing a map of the ocean floor, taking images of a specific object, and identifying features in the ocean or on the ocean floor. These objects could range from natural formations like coral reefs or volcanoes, to man-made features such as shipwrecks.

In round one, the ocean rovers will descend to 6,561 feet (2,000 meters), while the second round will take them to 13,123 feet.

The prize money will be distributed in portions, with the top 10 teams in round 1 splitting $1 million, followed by a Grand Prize of $4 million and second prize of $1 million in the second round. Another $1 million bonus prize is being offered by NOAA for the team that can track a biological or chemical signal through the ocean.

For complete guidelines and registration, visit X Prize.

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