Seafloor mapping XPRIZE final will be in the city of Kalamata

Shell Discovery Ocean contest

The foundation

XPRIZE is a nonprofit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity. The XPRIZE mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition.

The competition

The Shell Ocean Discovery it is a $7 million global competition. It  challenging teams to create and launch advance deep sea technologies for autonomous, fast, high-resolution ocean exploration.

The final of the ocean XPRIZE, where fleets of robots compete to map the largest area of seafloor inside 24 hours, will take place in deep waters off the coast of Greece, in Kalamata. Teams will be invited to demonstrate  their technologies, starting in early November. They will have to chart at least 250 sq km at depths down to 4,000m, and image 10 items of interest.

The XPRIZE Foundation is inviting the finalist eight teams to come to the port city of Kalamata. These international groups have devised all manner of autonomous airborne, surface, and sub-surface vehicles to take on the task of mapping seafloor topography.

Shell Discovery Ocean

The Teams

They will each get about 10 days to set up their robotic systems in Kalamata, test them before then dispatching them to the competition zone. The technologies have to be launched and recovered from the coast. The nearest entry point to the mapping zone is 15 nautical miles (28km) away. The eight Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE finalists: ARGGONAUTS (Karlsruhe, Germany), Blue Devil Ocean Engineering (Duke University, US), CFIS (Arnex-sur-Nyon, Switzerland), GEBCO-NF Alumni (International), KUROSHIO (Yokosuka, Japan), PISCES (Portugal), Team Tao (Newcastle, UK), Texas A&M Ocean Engineering (College Station, US).

The terain

Some of the deepest waters in the Mediterranean are found off the Greek mainland, including over the Hellenic Trench – a tectonic trough that reaches more than 6,000m below the sea surface. The designated competition area is roughly 500 sq km. The teams will get just 24 hours to map at least half of it. It will be a tough challenge. The underwater systems will have to navigate a cold, dark and high-pressure environment that is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in places.

After the competition has ended, the high-resolution seafloor map will be given to the Greek research organization NCSR-Demokritos, as it seeks to establish a neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean.