The XPRIZE Foundation has announced the winners of the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition to advance technologies for rapid, unmanned, and high-resolution ocean exploration and discovery.
The $4 million grand prize was awarded to GEBCO-NF Alumni, a fourteen-nation team based in the United States that includes alumni of the Nippon Foundation/General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Ocean Bathymetry training program at the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. Led by Rochelle Wigley and Yulia Zarayskaya, the GEBCO-NF team will combine existing technologies with a robust, low-cost unmanned surface vessel, the SeaKIT, and a cloud-based data processing system to enable comprehensive mapping of the ocean floor by 2030.
Based in Yokosuka, Japan, the KUROSHIO team earned the $1 million runner-up prize by integrating technologies from various partners to create a surface vessel and software platform that can operate with different autonomous underwater vessels, increasing the versatility of the technology.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bonus Prize for technology that can detect a chemical or biological signal underwater and autonomously track it to its source went to Ocean Quest, a junior high school team from San Jose, California, which was awarded $800,000, while the Tampa Deep Sea Xplorers from Florida took home the $200,000 runner-up prize. In addition, the judges unanimously recommended a $200,000 Moonshot Award for Team Tao from the United Kingdom for its unique approach to seafloor mapping even though it did not meet the criteria for the competition.
"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," said Ocean Discovery XPRIZE executive director Jyotika Virmani. "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."