Part of the ten-year XPRIZE Ocean Initiative, the three-year competition includes a nine-month team registration period, twelve months for initial solution development, and eighteen months to complete two rounds of testing and judging by an expert panel. In each round, teams will complete a series of tasks, including mapping the sea floor, producing high-resolution images of a specific object, and identifying archaeological, biological, and geological features. Teams also must show resiliency and durability by proving they can operate their technologies, deployed from the shore or air, at a depth of up to four thousand meters.
A $4 million grand prize and $1 million second-place prize will be awarded to the two teams that receive the top scores for high-resolution seafloor mapping after meeting all minimum requirements for speed, autonomy, and depth. In addition, up to ten teams will split a $1 million milestone prize and proceed to the second round. As part of the competition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is offering $1 million to teams that successfully demonstrate the ability to trace a chemical or biological signal to its source.
"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," said XPRIZE chairman and CEO Peter H. Diamandis. "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."