GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team has successfully completed the first 24-hour sea trials of its new concept that aims to ‘map the gaps’ of the world’s ocean floor.

The trials evaluated multiple operating protocols and procedures of the concept, which is being developed to allow the team to take part in the final round of $7m Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

The tests were conducted at Horten, Norway, and were observed from a guard vessel.

In March, the team completed the semi-final round of the global competition, which intends to enhance deep-sea technologies for autonomous, fast, high-resolution ocean exploration.

Final round of the competition is expected to take place in November-December this year.

GEBCO-NF Alumni Team has also expanded its team to include more than 70 individuals from across the globe, 15 of them are alumni of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO postgraduate training programme offered at the University of New Hampshire, US.

GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team project coordinator Dr Rochelle Wigley said: “That so many of our team are alumni of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO postgraduate training course at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (University of New Hampshire), highlights what a valuable global resource this capacity-building programme is.

“The concept uses a purpose-built Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is capable of operating at depths of up to 4,500m.”

“The team also benefits from the experience of academics from a range of fields, including geology, geomorphology and geophysics, as well as surveyors from national hydrographic offices, navies and industry.”

GEBCO-NF Alumni Team has also introduced new technology, systems and processes to its concept.

The concept uses a purpose-built Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is capable of operating at depths of up to 4,500m.

The AUV is supported by a SEA-KIT unmanned surface vessel, USV Maxlimer, designed and built by Hushcraft in the UK.

USV Maxlimer has the ability to autonomously launch and recover the AUV, while it serves as an active communication link during subsea survey operations.

GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team is also expected to conduct two additional 24-hour sea trials of its concept before the final round.