Scripps Institution of Oceanography

seafloor map

A team of North East-based subsea engineering experts from Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and Newcastle University have been recognised for their innovative engineering approach in the prestigious $7m Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition.

This global competition challenges teams to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration and discovery. Sponsored by Shell, teams compete to develop tea-sea underwater robots that can deliver the ability to fully map and discover the wonders of the sea-sea like never before by advancing the autonomy, scale, speed depths and resolution of ocean exploration.

TeamTao, the only UK team and one of the smallest to reach the grand final of the Ocean XPRIZE, were recognised for their highly innovative approach as the organisers announced a surprise additional Moonshot Award worth $200,000 at the prestigious awards ceremony held in Monaco.

The group has developed "Bathypelagic Excursion Modules" (BEMs), which are compact, low-cost, torpedo-like devices that descend and ascend in the water, using their echo-sounders to map the seafloor as they move across a grid.

Information gathered from seafloor mapping technology will be put to multiple uses including navigation, for laying underwater cables and pipelines, for fishery management and conservation and to improve the models that forecast future climate change.

The College of Engineering at Swansea University has supported TeamTao as Technical Consultants and in an Advisory capacity.

Professor Johann Sienz, who is a Team Advisor says “It is great to see the team’s hard work has been rewarded in this way by Shell. This cost-effective method of rapidly mapping the ocean floor and water columns is the result of a great working relationship with Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and other partners.

Our contribution was the design for additive manufacture and the in-house manufacture of highly stressed components out of titanium. These have performed extremely well.

Competing on the same stage as teams from Germany, Japan, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States shows that what we’re doing together will continue to make a huge image on the way we understand our oceans in the future.”