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Japanese team takes 2nd in contest to map ocean floor

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

A Team Kuroshio underwater robotic vessel is seen in September 2018.

The Yomiuri Shimbun A Japanese team won second prize in an international race to accurately map the ocean floor using autonomous exploration robots, competition organizer XPrize Foundation announced at a ceremony in Monaco on Saturday.

Team Kuroshio, comprised of eight public and private institutions including the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science and Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co., also won $1 million in prize money.

The team utilized an autonomous surface ship linked to several autonomous underwater robots for coordinated and simultaneous operations.

The race’s preliminary round took place in 2017, with eight teams from Japan, the United States and Europe advancing to the final competition.

In the final round held in November and December last year, participants surveyed a stretch of ocean floor at depths of more than 1,000 meters off Greece. Teams were judged based on the size of the area they surveyed and accuracy of their bathymetric charts.

An international team based in the United States won the race.

“We are thrilled to have won second place as the competition was very strong,” JAMSTEC researcher and Team Kuroshio coleader Takeshi Nakatani said. “We want to further hone the technology and operational skills we developed through the race, and to continue our efforts to put Japan-made marine exploration technologies into practical use.”

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