Semi-finalists named in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE

The Shell Oil-sponsored Ocean Discovery XPrize moves to the semi-finalist stage this week with 21 teams from 25 countries, including Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Aimed at exploring and detecting chemical and biological systems at the depths of the ocean, the teams will be required to navigate vessels deeper than the Grand Canyon, tasked with mapping space five times the size of Paris, by the XPRIZE’s measure.

The nearly two-dozen teams currently competing represent a pretty width breadth of solutions, including the Arggonauts from Germany, which utilize a swarm of 12 drones, a modular, low-cost ROV from Ghana and a Canadian team that launches underwater drones from aerial ones.

“The diversity of teams is truly impressive – we have middle and high school students, university students, maker-movement enthusiasts and ocean industry professionals,” XPRIZE senior director Dr. Jyotika Virmani tells TechCrunch. “The range of technological approaches is just as astounding, ranging from swarms of intelligent underwater robots that mimic bees, to drones that go from air into the water, to autonomous sea-surface and sub-surface vehicles working together to map the sea-floor accurately at unprecedented speeds.”

In this first official round, teams will be required to perform the following,

[D]eploy their entries to operate at a depth of 2,000 meters, aiming to map at least 20 percent of the 500 km2 competition area at five meters resolution, identifying and imaging at least five archeological, biological or geological features at any depth, all within 16 hours.

In round two, ten finalists will be required to double the depth and percentage of the map covered. The teams are competing for a total of $7 million, which will be spread out over the course of the competition, including a $4 million grand prize and $1 million for the runner-up.