$7 million XPrize is bound to push ocean exploration beyond boundaries, in a newly announced project contest dubbed Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize. And yes, it’s the oil company Shell, in case you were wondering.
The purpose of the Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize: foster a new era of ocean exploration, with top notch technology and knowledge expected to be deployed by the contestants. Do we really need to know more about the oceans? We certainly do as Earth’s final frontier is so understudied that outer worlds like Mars of Pluto benefit from better mapping. Currently, only about five percent of the Earth’s oceans are studied.
That leaves plenty of room for further exploration. And to help boost the exploration of Earth’s oceans and bridge the knowledge gap, XPrize announced the $7 million contest during the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco. According to the announcement, the $7 million XPrize is bound to push ocean exploration beyond boundaries, following the following axes:
“autonomy, scale, speed, depths and resolution of ocean exploration.”
The participating teams will have two phases of Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize contest to face. Each is eliminatory and the first is expected to be off to a resounding start in 2017. There are multiple gains to be taken into account with the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize contest. Firstly, the competition is interdisciplinary. With so many resources gathered in one place and such a high incentive, the gains should be considerable.
Second, technological advancements propping the exploration of Earth’s oceans can well be leveraged in several other areas. The organizers expect that the expeditions will not only contribute to a better understanding of the least known environment on our planet, but also to breakthrough discoveries in the medical field for instance.
Participants in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize contest will have to develop autonomous probes, vehicles or any other means that will be able to map a 2.5 miles deep and 193 square miles of seafloor area. And the organizers aren’t joking when they say autonomous. The scientific teams aren’t allowed in the survey area, so it’s all up to the autonomous probes to do a great job, whatever form they take.
To raise the stake even higher, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is throwing in a $1 million bonus. The team that successfully develops technology capable of detecting biological and chemical signals underwater (such as sources of pollution) is the grand winner.
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