XPRIZE partnership

22 Feb 2017

Fugro will use its deepwater survey expertise to support the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE with high resolution bathymetry data of the competition area

Fugro will use its deepwater survey expertise to support the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE with high resolution bathymetry data of the competition area

Dutch subsea survey major Fugro has announced a partnership with the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE to support first round testing of the global, three-year competition, which incentivises development of rapid, unmanned and high resolution ocean mapping technologies.

Fugro’s role is to provide high resolution deepwater
baseline bathymetry data over a 500 km² competition area. The company has
recently collected more than 1 million km² of high resolution bathymetry data
per year globally, predominantly in water depths greater than 750 metres.

Capitalising on its deepwater survey expertise, Fugro will
acquire the seafloor data using state-of-the-art techniques and equipment,
including a deepwater autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with
sonar-based survey systems. This information will be used to ground-truth the
work of 21 semi-finalist teams advancing to Round 1 of the competition. The
challenge for the competing teams is to deploy their inventions to operate at
2,000 metres ocean depth, mapping 20% of the project site at 5.0 metres
resolution, and identifying at least five archaeological, biological or
geological features, all within a 16-hour timeframe.

“The semi-finalist teams in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE
are pushing the envelope of deep sea mapping capabilities, and we are delighted
to partner with Fugro on this common goal of mapping the world’s oceans,” said
Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., prize lead and senior director of XPRIZE’s Energy and
Environment Group. “Fugro’s global subsea experience ensures that we will have
baseline maps of the highest standards, against which the judging panel can
compare the data collected by competing teams.”

Given that 85% of the world’s oceans are yet to be mapped
using modern survey techniques, there is a lot of seabed yet to cover. “Fugro
is working on a number of fronts to help close this data gap,” said David
Millar, Fugro’s director of hydrographic services for the Americas. “Our
partnership with the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is especially exciting, as
the competition could result in game-changing technology that will be for the
benefit of industry and our understanding of the world’s oceans.”

In addition to increasing the speeds and methods by which
baseline bathymetry could be acquired, the competition offers a special $1M
incentive sponsored by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) for systems that can also detect and track biological and chemical
signals. Such advancements would improve emergency response and foster the
discovery and monitoring of new marine life and underwater communities.

First round testing for semi-finalist teams is scheduled to
commence in September 2017. Fugro will acquire, process and deliver the high
resolution baseline datasets in advance.

XPRIZE’s philosophy is that—under the right circumstances—
igniting rapid experimentation from a variety of diverse lenses is the most
efficient and effective method to driving exponential impact and solutions to
grand challenges. The $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is one of nine active
global competitions.

By Jake Frith

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