If Greek God Poseidon does exist, he’s going to get something of a shock next month; there’s going to be an autonomous subsea and surface robotics invasion in his home turf, offshore southern Greece.

It’s the highly anticipated final of the US$7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. Nine teams made it through to the final, with fleets of unmanned underwater and surface technologies that will be deployed to map, image and identify seabed features across a 500 square kilometre site off Kalamata, in 4,000 metres water depth. Three of them are using our equipment to support their deployments.

It’s a big challenge they have been given. Over just 24 hours, the final of the competition tasks the teams with mapping at least half of a 500 sq km area of seabed, at five metre resolution, in water depths down to 4,000 metres. During this period, they also have to identify and image at least 10 archaeological, biological or geological features. And, they have to do all of this by deploying their systems from shore or air, with restricted human intervention, and all their equipment has to fit into a 40 foot container.

Team Tao

Of the eight currently active finalists, the three using our equipment are: Team Tao, which comprises a team from SMD Newcastle University in the UK; the Aggie Ocean Discovery team, from Texas A&M University, in the US; and Team Arggonauts, from the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation, in Germany.

TeamTao will use a swarm of five underwater drones called Bathypelagic Excursion Modules (BEMs), each of which carry an imaging sonar, lighting, an HD camera array and a host of other sensors. They ‘swim’ vertically through the water column and are deployed from an autonomous surface vessel that’s also responsible for processing collected data and then transmitting it to shore.

TeamTao has a Sonardyne Ranger 2 GyroUSBL system with Marine Robotics Pack to use with AvTrak 6 OEM Nanos. The Ranger 2 GyroUSBL will be used on the surface vessel to track, while the AvTrak 6 OEM Nanos will enable communication between the BEMS and Ranger 2. 

Texas A&M University Ocean EngineeringThe Aggies, from Texas A&M, will be using an in-house built AUV – either a Marlin or their latest autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Dynami – to gather sonar imagery over a 1.2 kilometre swath at 300 mere altitude, as well as at lower altitude in higher definition, in conjunction with a dynamic positioned remote surface vessel. They will also be using a Ranger 2 USBL tracking system and our 5,000 metre rated AvTrak 6 to track, monitor and control the AUVs.

The Arggonauts will deploy a swarm of their Great Diver AUVs from multiple Water Strider unmanned surface vessels. Navigation will be guided by our SPRINT-Nav INS (Inertial Navigation System) as part of an inverted Long Baseline style set-up.

ARGGONAUTSThe final competition round will run through November and December. The winner will collect a $4 million prize and the runner up $1 million. There is also a $1 million bonus prize from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for chemical and biological signal detection technologies.

We wish all of the teams the best of luck. Each and every one of them has put in an immense amount of work to get this far. Some 32 teams from 22 countries entered the competition, back in 2016. Of those, 19 made it through to the semi-final.

To find out more about our Marine Robotics capabilities, click here. https://www.sonardyne.com/application-category/marine-robotic-systems/

For about more about XPRIZE, click here. http://oceandiscovery.xprize.org/teams