Winner of Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Announced
The GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team has won the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, prevailing against teams from around the world to claim the top prize of $4 million.
The team's entry used the SEA-KIT uncrewed surface vessel Maxlimer, alongside the Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), for a concept for efficient, safe and cost-effective seafloor mapping. The Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN AUV is rated to operate at depths of up to 4,500 meters and is supported by Maxlimer which has the ability to autonomously launch and recover the AUV and acts as a communication link during subsea survey operations.
The award was presented to the team at a ceremony at the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, in the presence of leading international ocean experts, by Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE.
The GEBCO-NF Alumni Team includes 16 alumni of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program at the University of New Hampshire, US. They are Dr. Evgenia Bazhenova (Russia), Aileen Bohan (Ireland), Dr. Mohamed Elsaied (Egypt), Andres Fitzcarrald (Peru), Tomer Ketter (Israel), Christina Lacerda (Brazil), Jaya Roperez (Philippines), Azmi Rosedee (Malaysia), Ivan Ryzhov (Russia), Hadar Sade (Israel), Sattiabaruth Seeboruth (Mauritius), Masano Sumiyoshi (Japan), Neil Tinmouth (South Africa), Dr. Rochelle Anne Wigley (U.S.), Dr. Yulia Zarayskaya (Russia), and Dr. Karolina Zwolak (Poland).
The team’s entry into the competition was funded by The Nippon Foundation, a Japanese private non-profit organization. The prize money will be reinvested by The Nippon Foundation into the development of future ocean mapping initiatives.
The team venture was based at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping / Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC) at the University of New Hampshire. The Alumni worked closely with partners including the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Hushcraft, Ocean Floor Geophysics, Earth Analytic, Teledyne CARIS, Raitt Orr and Associates, ShipOwners and OmniAccess, as well as equipment supplier Kongsberg Maritime.
Dr Rochelle Wigley, Project Coordinator for the team, thanked the XPRIZE judges for recognising the tireless work and ingenuity of the team members and all others who had contributed to the entry.
The GEBCO-NF Alumni Team entered the competition in July 2016, successfully making it through to the semi-final stage and qualifying for the final round, which saw them travel to Kalamata, Greece, to compete against the other finalists in a 24-hour ocean mapping challenge. The team mapped 278 square kilometers and produced 10 high-resolution images which were selected using the Kongsberg REFLECTION software package from standard HISAS imagery. Additionally, eight 3D surfaces of the seafloor were produced using Fledermaus software. Kongsberg EM304 multibeam data was uploaded online and team members cleaned and produced nine point cloud images using Qimera.
The team’s SEA-KIT vessel USV Maxlimer was named after UNH Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program alumna Maxlimer Anziani Vallee, who sadly passed away following a car accident in January 2017. Since being used in the team’s XPRIZE entry, the vessel has completed the world’s first international commercial uncrewed North Sea transit, successfully traversing the world’s busiest shipping lane to deliver a box of oysters from the U.K. to Belgium on May 7, 2019.