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Arggonauts' Great Diver

The moon-shot Lunar XPrize may be the most famous of the XPrize competitions, but the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize is all about exploring the unknown right here on Earth. 

The $7 million ocean prize is designed to reward teams for developing unmanned technology solutions that can rapidly map the ocean floor, take images of underwater objects and identify archaeological artifacts, geologic features and biological creatures deep beneath the waves.

Ralph Schönfelder and Kevin Rösch from the German team Arggonauts prepare their underwater vehicle for a demonstration at a yacht club in Rheinau. This UV is named "Great Diver."

The Arggonauts team has been working on an unusual swarm concept that would use multiple unmanned underwater and surface vehicles to explore the ocean floor. The group is one of nine finalists announced in March for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize.

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3D-printed underwater pod

Team Tao from the UK and China is another team working on a swarm system for studying the deep ocean. 

Here, Team Tao member Leo Liu Yang and team lead Dale Wakeham check a 3D-printed autonomous underwater pod at the University of Newcastle prior to an endurance demonstration.

"With 95% of our ocean unexplored, we know more about the surface of the Mars than what exists thousands of meters below the waves," say Team Tao on its website. The group is one of the nine ocean XPrize finalists.

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Blue Devil Ocean Engineering drone

Duke University students prepare a heavy-lift aerial drone for a test flight in Durham, North Carolina. The drone is designed to transport sonar pods that descend vertically into the ocean. 

The Blue Devil Ocean Engineering team is an XPrize finalist. The group's concept involves both dropping and retrieving sonar pods by way of aerial drones. The pods map the 3D volume of the ocean around them. 

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Preparing Argus

The CFIS team from Switzerland is designing a swarm of underwater robots that look for unusual ocean creatures and landmarks and use lasers to map the ocean floor.

Here, CFIS team lead Toby Jackson prepares an autonomous underwater vehicle named Argus for a speed demonstration in a lake in France. 

CFIS is one of nine finalists for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize focused on developing innovative ways to map and study the ocean.

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SEA-KIT testing

This colorful surface vessel is named SEA-KIT. Here, it is undergoing testing for navigation avoidance in Norway. The Gebco-NF Alumni Team is working on a Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize entry that uses a surface vessel and an underwater vehicle along with some innovative communications and data processing technologies.

The Gebco-NF Alumni team is made up of alumni of the Nippon Foundation/Gebco Ocean Mapping training program at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. The training program focuses on ocean bathymetry, which includes the study of underwater topography.

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Going for a submersion test

Japanese XPrize team Kuroshio submerges its autonomous underwater vehicle in a test tank at the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo for a demonstration of its deep underwater imaging capabilities.

Kuroshio is one of nine teams selected as finalists for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize, a three-year global competition that is now moving into it final phases. The teams are all working on technologies that can map the ocean floor at great depths. 

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Pisces surface vessel

This autonomous surface vessel is part of Portuguese team Pisces' solution for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize competition. The surface vessel is named Roaz II, while the underwater vehicle component is named Dart. The team is one of nine finalists for the ocean XPrize.

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Collision avoidance with Texas A&M

The Texas A&M University Ocean Engineering Team demonstrates the navigation and collision avoidance skills of its remotely operated autonomous surface vessel Wahoo in a Texas lake. 

The team, one of nine ocean-exploration XPrize finalists, says it's "using drone ships and AUVs equipped with innovative navigation systems, renewable power generation and chemical sensing technologies to explore remote ocean habitats."

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Virginia Deep-X

The Virginia Distributed Environmental Exploration Project (Virginia Deep-X) team secured a finalist spot for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize with its concept of using small, inexpensive underwater vehicles that collaborate with each other to quickly survey the ocean. The team plans to deploy up to 12 of these subsea vehicles at a time. 

This yellow underwater autonomous vehicle is nicknamed "Javelin." Team members Stephen Krauss (Ph.D student), Jack Webster (Ph.D student) and team lead professor Daniel Stilwell pose with the sporty-looking UV. 

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