This is exactly what XPrize fund and Shell company recently announced. These two partners launched an international $7-million competition, in which all interested teams are supposed to develop a deep-sea drone for profound ocean exploration. The competition will be held for 3 years – until December 2018.
A newly designed underwater drone must conduct a good-quality image capturing at 4-km depth and be able to solve the following exploratory tasks:
- create a high-resolution bathymetric map
- make clear images of a specified underwater object
- identify archeological, biological and geological features of the explored territory
- track the source of chemical or biological signals (for this one, a bonus prize offered).
The drones will be tested in two rounds: first at 2 km and then at 4 km depth. In both cases, drones should be launched from shore or air, without excess human assistance. 25 selected teams will compete in the first round and then get shortlisted to 10 for the second round. The winner will be awarded $4 million as long as the team meets or exceeds all minimum requirements. The second place team will receive $1 million for the second best score achieved. Another $1 million will be granted and shared among the best 10 teams. A separate $1 million award will be given to the team that manages to track the source of a biological or chemical signal, which is actually a voluntary challenge.
Why is this competition of such a great concern? Don’t we have a lot of drones already? Or why do we need to make such a ‘deep’ insight into the ocean life?
The world ocean is a rich ecosystem, possessing loads of natural resources and serving home to a big variety of species. New-era exploration would not only encourage innovation but also contribute to the concept of sustainable development and illuminate the most mystifying part of the planet.
For years, access to the ocean depths has been restricted by physical and tech challenges, extremely high costs and lack of investments. Currently, it is impossible to cover the ocean scale without some compromises in resolution, mapping, weight sensors or expedition longevity.
Luckily, this $7 Million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition might encourage a certain positive move towards autonomous ocean exploration.
The application is open till the September 30th, 2016.For more details go to
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