Faster, cheaper autonomous systems could aid in resource extraction and science.
Next week, a small yellow and white–striped boat will slip out of port in Kalamata, Greece, and motor away from shore. The vessel won’t carry a captain or crew, just an array of electronics that will tell it where to go, and when to drop the torpedo-shaped pod lodged in its stern. Once released, the sonar-equipped vehicle will descend several kilometers into the frigid abyss of the Hellenic Trench, the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea, and map the sea floor with pinging pulses of sound. The team behind the effort is the first of eight competing over the next few months in the finals of the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. “I’m not sure if we are crazy or not, but we decided to go first,” says Rochelle Wigley, a marine geologist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, who leads the XPRIZE team of the Japanese Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), an international organization.
Read the full story in Science.