It’s hard to believe, but less than 10 percent of the Earth’s oceans have actually been mapped — though the latest XPrize contest hopes to change that.
XPrize has launched a $7 million contest challenging teams to advance deep-sea technologies for autonomous, fast and high-resolution ocean exploration. The hope is that the incentive will generate some interest in ocean exploration, which could lead to new, affordable technology for ocean mapping down the line.
The official announcement notes the inherent problems with ocean exploration, and the things they’re trying to overcome with this initiative:
Scalability: Existing technologies cannot operate at the large scales needed to cover the ocean unless they make substantial compromises in mapping, resolution, power and weight of sensors.
Cost: Today’s advanced autonomous technologies require vessels that can cost up to $60,000 per day and a capital investment of up to $1 million, which limits access to specific industries.
Investment: Ocean discovery efforts are supported by a variety of government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector, however, only a fraction of these investments are spent on exploring the deep ocean.
Power: The size, weight, and sensor payload of a vehicle determines how long it can explore as well as the quality of data it gathers, which results in a tradeoff between power and expedition longevity.
Engagement: The ocean plays an important role on our planet and in our everyday lives, yet so little is known by those not already involved in marine activities.
The potential is endless here, really, with undiscovered plant and fish life likely teeming deep in those uncharted waters. Plus, if we’re ever going to find Atlantis, this is where it starts.