Engineering experts head out to prestigious international competition

A team of subsea engineering experts from Wallsend is representing the UK in a prestigious international final.

Thursday, 20th December 2018, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 20th December 2018, 11:33 am
TeamTao and their autonomous swarm system technology at the National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering, Newcastle University. Picture by Mike Smith Photography.

TeamTao is the only UK team to make the grand final of the $7million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition mapping the sea floor.

The team, one of the smallest taking part, has headed to Greece to field test its technology in the last round of the competition.

The competition area is roughly 500sq km of seafloor, equivalent to an area the size of Paris. Teams get 24 hours to map as much of it as possible at a resolution of 5m horizontally and 0.5m vertically. There can be no human intervention and the equipment must fit in a 40ft container.

During the final round of testing, TeamTao will showcase its autonomous swarm system technology against seven other world teams.

Based in the National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering at Newcastle University, TeamTao brings together experts from Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and the university.

Dale Wakeham, SMD design engineer and TeamTao project leader, said: “The team has been working tirelessly during the last six months to develop and refine the technology, and we are looking forward to representing the UK in such a prestigious international arena.

“The Ocean XPRIZE competition presents a significant challenge, but we are using it as an opportunity to accelerate development and showcase to the world what the future of subsea survey looks like.”

Dr Jeff Neasham, the team’s sonar expert and a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, added: “Newcastle University is immensely proud to be part of TeamTao and to have reached the final of the Ocean X-prize Competition.

“It has been hugely challenging to develop an innovative seabed mapping solution from scratch and we are very excited to see how this technology can impact ocean exploration in the future.”

Mike Jones, SMD chief executive said: “To reach the final has been an outstanding achievement.

“We began this journey with an ambitious dream on a minimal budget and secured a fantastic partner in Newcastle University to create TeamTao. Together we have engineered a truly pioneering and cost-effective method of rapidly mapping the ocean floor and water column.

“In recent months, we’ve also received further support from a number of partners and generous sponsors, including UK Research and Innovation.

“This has enabled us to scale-up operations dramatically, and while there is still a lot of hard work to do, we’re on track to demonstrate our system’s capabilities, which are revolutionary both in terms of cost and speed of map generation, and once scaled up, they will change the way our oceans are monitored in future.”