Author: Fusion PR (UK) Limited
A multi-skilled team of north east-based subsea engineering experts representing the UK has advanced to the semi-finals in the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
multi-skilled team of north east-based subsea engineering experts representing
the UK has advanced to the semi-finals in the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery
XPRIZE, a prestigious international competition which aims to create the next
generation tools, technologies and techniques for rapid, unmanned ocean
exploration and discovery.
challenged to design and build new ways to map the ocean floor at depths and a
resolution never achieved before using advanced deep-sea technologies for
autonomous, fast and high-resolution ocean exploration.
Based in the
National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering in Newcastle, Team Tao is
the only UK team to make the semi-final and will compete against 21 teams from
13 countries vying for their share of the $7 million prize purse.
robotics is a core element of the competition, challenging teams to develop
deep-sea autonomous underwater robots that have to perform a series of tasks.
These tasks include the ability to quickly map the sea-floor at a high-resolution,
take high-definition images of biological, geological or archaeological
features, and autonomously find the underwater source of a biological or
brings together industry experts from Tyneside-based subsea engineering
specialist Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and Newcastle University. They are
developing an autonomous swarm system for rapid surface to deep ocean
CRRCTEC, both subsidiaries of Chinese parent company CRRC Ltd, are the main
sponsors behind Team Tao. SMD is the number one independent designer and
manufacturer of specialist subsea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and
advanced submarine engineering machines worldwide. CRRCTEC is the world’s
largest provider of propulsion and power control systems.
Wilkinson, Tao Team Advisor and Chief Technology Officer at SMD UK, explains:
“SMD has a long history of creating subsea technology solutions, our equipment
has played a major role in laying over 80% of the world’s physical connections
for the internet between continents. Team Tao being the only UK team in the
second round of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Challenge is a great
achievement for them and something we are extremely proud to support.
competition is all about finding faster and cheaper ways to create maps for all
our oceans’ sea beds. The current estimated cost and time to do this is $3
billion by 2030. The challenge is significant and being part of the competition
is very much about taking part in a journey of learning and innovating each
step of the way.
technologies which will come out of the XPRIZE will give us the ability to
finally discover underwater resources, geological features, new species and
safer methods of mapping and exploring the world’s oceans.”
operates with a core team of four engineering experts from SMD, Newcastle
University and CRRCTEC Ltd and is backed by a panel of seven industry and
academic advisors. Their approach to the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE involves
international collaboration through partnerships with companies in China, the
US and France, as well as research and innovation experts at Newcastle
University through its Tyne Subsea Centre for subsea and offshore engineering.
The first of its kind in the UK, the Tyne Subsea Centre brings together
academia and industry in a world-class engineering research facility.
Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Newcastle
University, said: “Historically, access to the deep ocean has been limited by
the extraordinary physical challenges of exploring this extreme environment,
high cost, limited technological advancements and lack of investment.
two-thirds of our planet is covered by water yet we have only explored 5% of
the ocean. This physically challenging environment prohibits today’s mapping
technologies from exploring the ocean.
represents industry and academia working together to solve a global problem. If
we can increase awareness and understanding of our oceans there are significant
and wide-ranging economic and environmental opportunities from eco-tourism to
bio prospecting. A recent OECD report projects a value of $3 trillion by 2030,
therefore improving our understanding of what lies beneath our oceans means we
can also take better care of them too.”
competing in the semi-final hail from Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana,
India, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland, the United
Kingdom and the United States. Groups include university teams of undergraduate
and graduate students, non-profits, start-ups and professional scientists and
Tao Team Leader and Industrial Design Engineer at SMD UK, adds: “It’s fantastic
to go through to the next round of the competition. Engineering challenges are
normally solved with overly complex solutions. At Team Tao we take a minimalist
approach which is a departure from the commercial norm of high value complex
our mission is to help kick-start the new ‘ocean economy’ by redirecting the
market to use multiple, simple, low value assets which come together to create
a complex industry-leading ecosystem survey, offering data that is attainable
and relatable to inspire positive change. For us it’s all about discovering,
monitoring and learning how to best protect our oceans through the development
of rapid sensing big data technology.”
Ocean Discovery XPRIZE semi-finalists now move forward to Round 1 testing
starting in September 2017. Teams will deploy their entries to operate at a
depth of 2,000 meters, racing to map at least 20 percent of the 500 km2
competition area at five meters resolution, identifying and imaging at least
five archaeological, biological or geological features at any depth, all within
16 hours. In other words, the competition technologies will aim to reach depths
deeper than the Grand Canyon and map an area that is nearly five times the area
teams will then move on to Round 2 in September 2018 undergoing deep-sea tests
challenging the teams to operate their solutions at depths of 4,000 meters. The
winning team will be announced in December 2018.
Ocean Discovery XPRIZE semi-finalists also have a shot at a $1 million bonus
prize established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), which will incentivise teams to pioneer underwater sensing technologies
that detect biological and chemical signals and trace their source. This will
allow the development of rapid emergency response in addition to the discovery
and monitoring of new marine life and underwater communities in ways that never
competition is part of XPRIZE’s 10-year Ocean Initiative – a commitment made to
launch five multi-million dollar prizes by 2020 to address critical ocean
challenges and inspire innovation that helps create an ocean that is healthy,
valued and understood.