A global competition is challenging teams to design an underwater vehicle to explore the deep sea. It must map the seafloor, produce images of specific objects, identify archeological, biological or geological features and, for a bonus, track a chemical or biological signal to its source.

Teams must launch from shore or air and have a limited time to explore the competition area. There must be minimum human intervention.

The good news is that teams have over three years to develop their robots.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will take place in two rounds over 36 months. Teams must register by the deadline in order to compete. Each team will submit technical documentation two months after the registration deadline, detailing their approach and technologies. The technical documentation will be judged and the top 25 teams will be invited to participate in round one testing. Up to 10 finalist teams will then participate in round two. Round one testing will be conducted at 2000 meters depth and round two at 4000 meters depth.

The organisers hope to usher in a new era of ocean exploration by pushing the boundaries of existing technologies. The prize is also to facilitate the discovery of new ocean species, underwater resources, geological features and safer methods of exploring the deep sea.

The $7 million on offer comprises several prizes. The grand prize of $4 million will be awarded to the first place team that receives the top score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements. Second prize of $1 million goes to the team that receives the second highest score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements. $1 million will be split among the top (up to) 10 teams from round one. There is also a NOAA Bonus Prize of $1 million to be awarded in round one to the team that successfully identifies the source of an established biological or chemical signal. This will roll over to round two if there are no winners in round two. Participation in the bonus prize will be voluntary for registered teams.

“Our oceans cover two-thirds of our planet’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,” Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of XPRIZE, said. “In 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.”

Part of the 10-year XPRIZE Ocean Initiative, the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is one of five multi-million dollar prizes to address critical ocean challenges and make the oceans healthy, valued and understood. XPRIZE awarded the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE in 2011 and the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE in July 2015.

To read more about the competition rules see http://oceandiscovery.xprize.org/about/guidelines


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