The winners of the latest XPRIZE competition were announced on Friday. Sponsored by Shell with a bonus prize from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the competition focused on the challenge of exploring the seafloor and saw 32 teams from around the world competing for $7 million.
The primary goal was to build an autonomous, high-resolution seafloor-mapping system that could be launched from a similarly uncrewed boat. Seafloor mapping is incredibly expensive, which limits its use. If the research vessel and extensive crew weren’t necessary, a lot more work could get done with the current amount of funding.
Nine finalist teams split $1 million last year before the final rounds of testing. Each team took its creations to Kalamata, Greece (an audible after hurricanes scrambled the initial plan to work in Puerto Rico), where they had 24 hours to map 250 square kilometers of seafloor at least 5m resolution. The teams’ maps were checked against an existing, high-quality one.