Autonomous ocean exploration: the winners of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE

An image to illustrate autonomous ocean exploration
© iStock/Andrey Suslov

The winners of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE for autonomous ocean exploration have been announced.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE incentivises mapping the sea floor. The winners of the prize for autonomous ocean exploration have now been announced at an awards ceremony at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The museum is world renowned and part of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

The winners

The grand prize winner was GEBCO-NF Alumni, an international team based in the United States. The team received $4M and was led by Rochelle Wigley, Ph.D. and Yulia Zarayskaya, Ph.D. They integrated existing technologies and experience in mapping the ocean with the SeaKit, a low-cost unmanned surface vessel, and a new cloud-based data processing system for rapid seabed visualisation. This will contribute towards mapping the ocean floor comprehensively by 2030.

The runner up was KUROSHIO from Japan, which claimed the $1M prize. The team was led by Takeshi Nakatani, Ph.D., and they integrated partners’ technologies to create a surface vessel and software platform that operates with different autonomous underwater vessels.

The $1M National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bonus Prize was for teams to develop technology that could detect a chemical or biological signal underwater and autonomously track it to its source. This prize was split between junior high school team Ocean Quest  and Tampa Deep Sea Xplorers, from Florida, taking $200K as runner-up.

The importance of autonomous ocean exploration

Executive Director of the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D, commented: “Currently, more than 80 percent of the world’s ocean is unmapped, and I’m proud to have worked alongside the people who will change this as a part of this XPRIZE. Our vision is that these new technologies will enable the discovery of new ocean species, underwater resources, geological features, and safer methods of exploring the deep sea, while illuminating the mysteries of the deep and discovering what has remained unknown since the dawn of time.”

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