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.

The $7 Million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is a global competition challenging teams to advance deep-sea technologies for autonomous, fast and high-resolution ocean exploration.

The success of this prize will allow us to fully explore and map the ocean floor, and uncover our planet’s greatest wonder and resource for the benefit of humanity. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) $1 million bonus prize will incentivize teams to develop technologies to detect the source of chemical and biological signals underwater.



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.



Teams will compete in two rounds for a total prize of $7 million:
Round 1 testing will be conducted at 2,000 meters depth.
Round 2 testing will be conducted at 4,000 meters depth.

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:

1)  a high resolution bathymetric map
2)  images of a specified object
3)  identify archeological, biological or geological features
4)  track a chemical or biological signal to its source (bonus prize)

Please see Competition Guidelines for more details.

Before launching a prize, XPRIZE conducts extensive research with industry leaders and experts to design a competition that will significantly advance technology for exponential impact. Click here for XPRIZE’s assessment of the landscape for ocean discovery.


Market Failures

  • 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 Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will usher in a new era of ocean exploration by pushing the boundaries of existing technologies and discovering new ocean species, underwater resources, geological features, and safer methods of exploring the deep sea.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will:

  • Accelerate innovation for the rapid and unmanned exploration of the unchartered deep sea.

  • Catalyze markets in deep ocean exploration and discovery, sustainable resource development, and protection.

  • Illuminate the most mysterious part of the planet and ignite the public imagination.



To compete in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE you must be a fully registered team. To complete your registration, you must:

  1. Create a Team profile
  2. Sign the Competitor’s Agreement
  3.  Pay the registration fee*

*Registration fees are required as a simple qualifier to ensure competitors will be able to obtain the appropriate resources to fully compete in the competition. All fee’s collected are used to support teams and competition operational costs which consists of testing, team focused events, media and prize impact development.


For more information about the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, download the competition information:

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