The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE project announced the 21 teams that will participate in its semi-finals among the 32 that signed up to competition by the end of September 2016. The initiative was announced in December 2015 by Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of XPRIZE in order to support the development of ocean exploration technologies. The first round of tests for the semifinalists is scheduled for August-September 2017.
The 21 teams selected, which include a total of nearly 350 people from 25 nations, are:
ARGGONAUTS. This team based in Germany is creating a swarm of 12 smart drones for deep sea exploration, based on the experience of previous projects.
BangaloreRobotics. This team based in India is developing innovative, low cost, deep-sea drones.
Blue Devil Ocean Engineering. This team based at Duke University, North Carolina, USA, is working on aerial drones that can drop in the ocean underwater vehicles that can be retrieved later.
CFIS. This team based in Switzerland is planning a swarm of underwater robots that use lasers to map the depths of the oceans and for collecting underwater images.
Eauligo. This team based in France is developing micro-submarines that mimic bees and their behavior to explore the depths of the oceans.
ENVIRODRONE. This team based in Canadian uses aerial drones to launch next generation underwater drones.
Exocetus. This team based in the USA uses underwater gliders equipped with sonar capable of prolonged mapping operations.
GEBCO-NF. This team based in New Zealand is integrating various technologies into a new vessel to contribute to the mapping of the ocean floor by 2030.
PISCES. This team based in Portugal is putting together national technologies to create a cooperative robotic system.
KUROSHIO. This team based in Japan is putting together technologies from Japanese universities, institutes and companies to create its submarine drones.
Lehigh Tide. This team based in the USA has created an underwater drone that aims to accurately map the oceans.
Ocean Quest. This team based in the USA aims to design a platform for students from all the world for a project with a crucial educational factor.
Oceanzus. This team based in the USA is creating a platform that supports a range of equipment for marine surveys to perform the mappings.
OD-Africa. This team based in Ghana is building low-cost modular underwater drones to democratize the discovery of the oceans also making use of artificial intelligence.
Orca Robotics. This team based in the USA is creating an underwater system that combines a radar and an information technology system to provide real-time results.
SubUAS. This team based in the USA created a drone equipped with artificial intelligence that can reach remote areas for its surveys, dive, perform underwater explorations and fly back to its home.
Tampa Deep-Sea X-plorers. This team based in the USA is using existing technologies and sonar systems on various underwater drones to cover large areas to be mapped.
Tao team. This team based in the UK is developing a swarm of autonomous drones for quick exploration of the ocean depths.
Texas A&M University Ocean Engineering. This team based in the USA is using automated drone ships and underwater drones equipped with innovative systems to explore remote areas in the ocean depths.
Virginia DEEP-X — Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University. This team based in the USA is developing small low-cost underwater vehicles capable of working together.
X994. This team based in the USA is working to optimize ocean mapping through progress on software, artificial intelligence and data analysis.
Among the 21 semifinalists team up to 10 teams will be selected to pass the first round and will share a prize of $1 million. The test will be to map the sea floor at a depth of 2000 meters at a horizontal resolution of at least 5 meters and vertical of at least 0.5 meters of at least 20% of an area of 500 square kilometers.
The teams will also have to bring back 5 images of archaeological, biological or geological features along with the image of an object that will be specified. All this will have to be done using robotic systems, without the presence of any human being in the area where the competition will take place.
XPRIZE is a non-profit foundation that seeks to develop technologies of various types useful for humanity. If the case of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE project, the goal is to improve our knowledge of the oceans, currently very limited due to the fact that going deep down visibility decreases rapidly while pressure increases.
The consequence is that so far the exploration of the ocean depths has been difficult and very expensive. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE project should stimulate new solutions that will achieve major improvements in the mapping of the ocean floor.
The Earth’s surface is covered for 70% of water and the state of the seas is crucial to life on the planet. Learning more about the ocean depths is needed to really understand its health’s state and the consequent influence on the health of all life on Earth.