Frequently Asked Questions

  • Nearly 70% of our planet is covered by the ocean and yet we know so little about it. In fact, we have better maps of the moon than we do of our own seafloor. We don’t know what creatures live down there, or the massive volcanoes or seamounts that exist, nor do we have the technologies needed to recover ships or planes that have been lost within the ocean. This prize is about discovering the mysteries of the ocean, while rediscovering the inherent adventurer within each of us, so that we can truly understand the planet we live on.

  • The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is a three-year competition, comprised of a 6-9 month team registration period, 12 months for solution development and 18 months to complete two phases of testing, judging and award.

  • Although team registration has officially concluded, you can visit our team portal, create a profile and join an existing team.

  • Competing in an XPRIZE is an exciting journey that often requires a commitment of time, expertise and resources. Registration fees are required as a simple qualifier to ensure that competitors will be able to obtain the appropriate resources to fully compete. All fees collected are used to support teams and competition operational costs such as testing, team focused events, media and prize impact development.

  • Yes. Once you have expressed an interest in competing and completed an online profile, you will have access to join our online XPRIZE Forum where people (or groups) will post their skills or the skills that they are looking for to complete their team. There you will find opportunities to collaborate and be part of this unique competition.

  • Exploration, mapping and underwater photography are just a few of the many ways that these technologies may be used. These technologies will help any industry that operates in the deep sea to conduct safe operations by providing rapid autonomous visual assessments of their hardware, pipelines and cables. These technologies will also assist in search and rescue operations and allow environmental managers to monitor deep-sea activities. For scientists, these technologies will help them to understand the deep-sea environment by providing visual, chemical and biological information, which could lead to the discovery of new species and potential new resources, such as medicines. For underwater archeologists, this would help them to discover sunken vessels of historical importance and help piece together human history as it pertains to the sea.

  • The technologies will be tested at two locations in the ocean – one where the seafloor is at 2000m depth, and the second where the seafloor is at 4000m depth. The exact locations will be disclosed to the teams closer to the test dates.

  • For detailed information regarding testing specifics visit our Prize Guidelines.

    The testing will take place over two Rounds.

    The First Round includes an initial downselect by the judges based on documentation and other information provided by the teams. Following this, up to 25 teams will move forward to the First Round of testing at a location that will be disclosed closer to the testing date.

    The competing entries will be required to map at least 20% of a 500 km² area of the seafloor at 2000m depth over a few hours (see Guidelines for details). During this time the entries will collect high-definition images of an object specified by XPRIZE, as well as a number of high-definition images of archeological, biological, or geological features.

    If a team is competing for the $1 million NOAA Bonus Prize, their entry must demonstrate that it can autonomously detect a chemical or biological signal and trace it to its source. Further details on this will be available in the Rules and Regulations.

    Up to 10 teams will move on to the Second Round, where the entries will be required to map at least 50% of a 500 km² area of the seafloor at 4000m depth over a few hours (see Guidelines for details).

    During this time the entries will collect high-definition images of an object specified by XPRIZE, as well as a number of high-definition images of archeological, biological, or geological features.

    If the NOAA Bonus Prize has not been won in the First Round, teams in the Second Round will have another opportunity to compete for this Prize by autonomously detecting a chemical or biological signal and tracing it to its source.

  • All technologies are allowed, however, they must meet specific environmental conditions. Our goal is to discover the wonders of the deep ocean without causing environmental harm. Studies have shown that sonar at certain frequencies is harmful to marine life. Sonar is allowed, provided that it operates at frequencies that do not harm marine life. Details on the acceptable frequency range, as identified by experts, will be provided in the Guidelines.

  • No, we believe that a good idea can come from anywhere! Anyone who has a passion and interest in robotics, underwater robotics, underwater photography, chemical and biological fingerprints, data visualization, nanotechnology and a whole host of other fields should enter.

  • Our oceans are about 70% of the surface of our planet and are a crucial global source of energy, water, food and economic security. Yet today, they are largely a mystery to us.

    Numerous market failures have contributed to this, and we lack the cost-effective ocean exploration technology to gather the detailed data and information necessary to understand and leverage our ocean resources in sustainable ways. Solving this will require technical innovations in speed, power, data gathering capabilities and underwater sensing technologies.

    The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will address these challenges by incentivizing platforms for ocean exploration that can demonstrate the combination of capabilities critical to expand the understanding of the world’s oceans via improved autonomy, faster speeds and the ability to explore at significant depths.

    This XPRIZE will accelerate innovation for the rapid and unmanned exploration of the uncharted deep sea; catalyze markets in deep ocean exploration and discovery, sustainable resource development, and protection; and, by illuminating the most mysterious part of the planet, ignite the public imagination.

  • Like XPRIZE and many of our partners, Shell has a desire to help spur innovation and create radical breakthroughs that will help humanity. This technology will also help them to conduct safer operations by providing the ability for faster inspections of their underwater assets and to respond to any emergency in a timely manner.

  • There are four ways you can get involved:

    1) Form or be part of a Team.

    2) Sign up to follow the competition and monitor the progress of the Teams.

    3) Spread the word about the competition, so that people who are interested have an opportunity to compete and participate.

    4) Become a resource to Teams if you have something that would be helpful for them as they embark on this quest.

  • There is technology to map the seafloor and to take underwater photos, but it is slow and expensive because it requires ships to deploy the technology at sea. We are incentivizing teams to create technologies that will be deployed from the shore or by air, and will move faster in the water. There is also technology to detect chemical and biological signals in water, but this generally requires bringing water samples back to the laboratory for analysis.

  • The XPRIZE Ocean Initiative is a commitment by XPRIZE to launch five Ocean XPRIZE competitions over 10 years. The first two were the Wendy Schmidt Oil Spill Clean-Up XCHALLENGE, launched in 2010, and the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, launched in 2013. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is the third in the series. Collectively, by 2020, these five prizes will put the world on a path to a healthy, valued and understood Ocean.