Ocean currents: Outsider wins DARPA challenge to predict where floats will drift

A competition to forecast the locations of 90 floats drifting in the Atlantic could lead to better methods for tracking oil slicks and locating shipwreck survivors


10 January 2022

Float carrying sensors

A drifting float like those used in the challenge

Courtesy of Sofar Ocean

A satellite engineer with no background in oceanography has won an international competition to predict where a “message in a bottle” will drift to on the open sea.

Chris Wasson, who is based in southern California, beat 31 teams to scoop the $25,000 top prize in the Forecasting Floats in Turbulence Challenge, organised by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“I don’t have any real background in oceanography or weather system forecasting, but the problem was stated as more data- and algorithms-oriented,” says Wasson. …