$7 Million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE

Nothing like a little competition to get the ideas flowing than an XPRIZE challenging teams to push the boundaries of ocean technologies by creating solutions that advance the autonomy, speed, depths, and resolution of ocean discovery. Teams will discover our planet’s greatest wonder and resource, by harnessing the combined power of unmanned underwater technologies integrated with mapping and advanced imaging systems. Through a $1 million NOAA bonus prize teams will also develop enhanced chemical and biological detection capabilities.

Teams will compete in two rounds for a total prize of $7 million: Round 1 testing will be conducted at 2,000 meters depth. Map at least 20% of a 500 km2 area at a resolution of 5 meters or higher within 16 hours. Round 2 testing will be conducted at 4,000 meters depth. Map at least 50% of a 500 km2 area at a resolution of 5 meters or higher within 30 hours. For both rounds, teams must launch from shore or air and, with restricted human intervention, their entries will have limited number of hours to explore the competition area to produce:

Produce a Map

natural scenic view

Produce and deliver a bathymetric map

We have better maps of the moon and the surface of Mars than we do of the bottom of our oceans. The final frontier may not be in space, but right here on our own planet – our oceans. We must accelerate innovation to improve the speed, scale and image resolution necessary to better understand our planet’s greatest wonder and resource. 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.

Find a hidden treasure

Find a hidden treasure

High-definition digital images of a specified item or target

95% of the ocean is unexplored. The ocean covers two-thirds of our planet, and yet today, our oceans largely remain a mystery to us. Ocean exploration technologies today have not scaled to gather the detailed data and imaging critical to understanding and protecting our ocean resources in more expansive, sustainable and affordable ways.

ID in HD

Life beneath the Platform Brunei 2006

High-definition digital images of archeological, biological, and/or geological features

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. 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.


Shearwater Aberdeen 2015

The $7 million prize purse will be awarded as follows:

  • Grand Prize: $4 million will be awarded to the first place team that receives the top score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements.
  • Second Place Prize: $1 million will be awarded to the second place team that receives the second highest score that meets or exceeds all minimum requirements.
  • Milestone Prize: $1 million will be split among the top (up to) 10 teams from round 1.
  • NOAA Bonus Prize: $1 million will be awarded in round 1 to the team that successfully identifies the source of an established biological or chemical signal. This will roll over to round 2 if there are no winners in round 1. Participation in the bonus prize will be voluntary for registered teams. This will allow us to respond to emergencies, discover and monitor new marine life in a way that has not previously existed.

Valuable Impact

Our partnership with XPRIZE is natural - we share the same interests in innovation and sustainability. We work to keep the oceans healthy and allow it to continue to bring value not only to our country’s energy needs, but to our families and communities.

By accelerating innovation for the rapid and unmanned exploration of the unchartered deep sea, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will catalyze markets in deep ocean exploration, sustainable resource development and protection. Solutions will provide a pathway for discovering new species and underwater life forms, along with safer methods of exploring this challenging environment. In addition, this competition will ignite the public’s imagination by shedding a long over-due light on the most mysterious place on Earth.

Success hinges on a collective vision and proactive, collaborative efforts to realize a healthy marine environment and a productive economy – And, while doing so, we believe we can equip the community with the means to preserve its unique culture and diversity, and to continue to play a leading role in ocean management. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will usher in a new era of ocean exploration by pushing the boundaries of technology and discovery.



Innovating Together

Innovating with others, developing and investing in great ideas from entrepreneurs, employees, partners, students and academics.

Energy and Innovation

Innovation is the reason why we are able to unlock new sources of energy such as biofuels from plants.

Shell and X-Prize

Shell, NOAA and XPRIZE are aligned in the common goals for this competition, which are to spur unparalleled exploration through innovation and create radical breakthroughs that will help advance our understanding and care for the ocean.  Shell and NOAA share in XPRIZE’s enthusiasm and mission to better understand the deep sea.