We've seen XPrize competitions to get to the Moon and create a real life Star Trek Tricorder, among other goals. Now the latest competition is taking to the ocean depths with the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize announced on Monday offering a total of US$7 million in prizes to encourage development of new technologies for unmanned exploration of the world's oceans.
The three-year, worldwide competition will require teams to complete a series of tasks that include mapping the sea floor, capturing high-resolution images of a specific object and identifying archaeological, biological or geological features. Whether they are deployed from shore or air, entrants must demonstrate operation of their technologies at depths of up to 4,000 m (13,000 ft).
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"Ninety-five percent of the deep sea remains a mystery to us," XPrize chairman and CEO Dr. Peter H. Diamandis said. "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."
Part of the total prize purse includes $1 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a bonus prize for teams that successfully "sniff out" a target object by detecting biological or chemical signals.
"The goal of the NOAA bonus prize is to identify technology that can aid in detecting sources of pollution, enable rapid response to leaks and spills, identify hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, as well as track marine life for scientific research and conservation efforts," said Richard Spinrad, chief scientist at NOAA.
To be in contention for a slice of the prize pool, competitors must meet minimum requirements in terms of speed, autonomy and depth, with the $4 million Grand Prize and $1 million Second Place Prize going to the two teams that demonstrate the highest resolution seafloor mapping. The remaining $1 million will be split between the up to 10 teams that make it through to the second round of the competition.
Along with the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XChallenge and the Ocean Health XPrize, the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize is part of a 10-year XPrize Ocean Initiative with the goal of launching five multi-million dollar prizes by 2020 to improve the health and understanding of the world's oceans.
Prospective competitors can register their intent to compete over the next 9 months, followed by 12 months to develop their initial solution. This is then followed by two rounds of testing and judging by a panel of experts to be conducted over a period of 18 months.
The video below introduces the competition Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize.