Alumni team behind ocean mapping breakthrough

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Today, less than 10 percent of the world’s oceans have been mapped to high resolution. But efforts to map the remaining 90 percent could happen more quickly than previously expected, thanks in part to the work of a UNH alumni team that won a global competition aimed at advancing deep-sea technologies for ocean floor exploration.


UNH’s GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni team — alumni and industry partners and advisors based at UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping — prevailed against teams from around the world to win a $4 million prize in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE challenge. The team’s winning concept removes people — the most expensive and riskiest element of the mapping process — and replaces them with robots, pairing an uncrewed surface vessel with an autonomous underwater vehicle system (AUV). The team’s prototype has the ability to autonomously launch and recover the AUV in depths of up to 4,500 meters.

The project, based at UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center, includes 16 alumni of UNH’s Nippon Foundation/GEBCO program. The team’s entry into the competition was funded by The Nippon Foundation/GEBCO, which brings young scientists from around the world, primarily from developing countries, to UNH to become experts in deep-ocean mapping.