New Ocean Exploration xPrize


The XPrize Foundation just announced the new deep ocean exploration prize. I’d be eager to hear if there are any OpenROVers planning to enter. Let us know!


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

The success of this prize will allow us to fully explore and map the ocean floor, and uncover our planet’s greatest wonder and resource for the benefit of humanity. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) $1 million bonus prize will incentivize teams to develop technologies to detect the source of chemical and biological signals underwater.


The $7 million prize purse will be awarded as follows:

Grand Prize: $4 million will be awarded to the first place team that receives the top score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements.

Second Place Prize: $1 million will be awarded to the second place team that receives the second highest score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements.

Milestone Prize: $1 million will be split among the top (up to) 10 teams from round 1.

NOAA Bonus Prize: $1 million will be awarded in round 1 to the team that successfully identifies the source of an established biological or chemical signal. This will roll over to round 2 if there are no winners in round 1. Participation in the bonus prize will be voluntary for registered teams.


Teams will compete in two rounds for a total prize of $7 million:
Round 1 testing will be conducted at 2,000 meters depth.
Round 2 testing will be conducted at 4,000 meters depth.

For both rounds, Teams must launch from shore or air and, with restricted human intervention, their entries will have limited number of hours to explore the competition area to produce:

  1. a high resolution bathymetric map
  2. images of a specified object
  3. identify archeological, biological or geological features
  4. track a chemical or biological signal to its source (bonus prize)

Please see Competition Guidelines for more details.


Sorry David, am I the only one that is a bit shocked to see the words “Shell” and “ocean exploration” in the same sentence?
Hundreds of thousands of us have joined with Greenpeace to stop Shell drilling in the Arctic, thankfully we seem to have at least become a thorn in their side.
It appears, from first impressions, that they are now stooping as low as getting citizen scientists to provide valuable data and mapping from the seabed for their ongoing ravaging of the planet’s resources.
Or, they could be genuinely and benignly interested in the wonders of the deep, perhaps they have an altruism department.


Although I’ve started initial research and development on a small AUV design with @Scott_W, I think I’m going to stick with my 300ft limit.

4000m (13100ft)?! Wow, that’s quite a technical challenge. For reference, the Titanic lies at 12,415 feet (3,784 m). It’s probably going to take about $1 million just to get a vehicle down that deep.

It will sure be an interesting 3 years, and hopefully we can watch the teams’ progress after the proposals are in.


I’ve only talked to the XPrize folks, so not sure on the motivations of Shell. I don’t think you’re alone in the sentiment - I’ve heard it from quite a few people now.

It will be interesting to watch the competition play out. I’m eager to see what people come up with.


Just out of pure curiosity…

How much money do you think it would take to build a AUV to those specs? Ballpark figure?


Hello @David_Lang! New to the OpenROV forums but not new to whatever this community is doing :slight_smile: have always been a keen follower. I’m from an undergraduate AUV team in Singapore ( and we are interested in the XPRIZE challenge, combining it with a USV!


Hello @RyanR! I think Xprize is really looking at innovative solutions that goes beyond the existing sensor payload available, which are massive expensive. A sensor that tells us how fast the vehicle is going is 30K, obstacle avoidance sonar another 30K. IMU 50-60K, acoustic transponders a couple of Ks. and materials to perform at those pressures (plus testing etc). But I do hope (and will be working towards) a low cost solution can come out of this that makes it easier to understand our oceans!