Polar Challenge Announced

2000km continuos under-ice mission for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle


ENSTA - Jean-Claude Gascard

The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation recently launched the “Polar Challenge.” This global competition, which comes with prize money of 500,000 CHF, asks respondents to become

“the first to complete a 2000km continuous mission with an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle under the sea ice.”

Taking ocean observations in situ in polar regions is notoriously expensive and resource heavy. Taking measurements from under the sea ice adds further layers of complexity. However, the cryosphere is a major indicator of global climate change, so collecting data sets that help to further our understanding of such systems is a priority. Improvements in AUV infrastructure that provide the ability to collect multidisciplinary data have the potential to revolutionise our knowledge of marine ice interactions.

The vision of the project is for a “cost-effective, sustainable and autonomous polar ocean monitoring system” to emerge from the challenge. It is envisaged that this system will, in turn, “drive a new era for climate research and services.” Teams that take part will be challenged to push the boundaries of the possible in terms of ocean monitoring in polar regions, so innovation in terms of endurance, positioning, and data collection are all encouraged.

Slocum Ice Nicole Couto

SLOCUM - Nicole Couto

There are several parts to the “Polar Challenge.” The main mission (with 400,000 CHF prize money) is to complete a continuous 2000km AUV mission under the sea-ice, using autonomous and accurate navigation, and making regular observations of temperature and salinity up to a depth of 700m. Two optional demonstrations, each worth 50,000CHF in prize money, involve making regular observations of sea ice thickness or draft, and demonstrating the successful under-ice transmission of position and environmental data via WIS/GTS. To be eligible for the awards, missions must be completed between the date on which a team’s respective application was confirmed by the Organizers, and 31 Dec. 2019.

Glider ICeberg Andrew Thompson

Glider and iceberg - Andrew Thompson

The Polar Challenge is aligned with the WRCP’s Grand Challenge on Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and the Grand Challenge on Regional Sea Level Rise. To download an entry form, or to find out more, visit

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