The world’s first robot to control marine pests has just finished trials on the Great Barrier Reef hunting down and killing coral destroying crown-of-thorns starfish.
The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) says its autonomous underwater vehicle, the COTSbot robot, has successfully completed field trials, proving it can navigate difficult reefs, detect crown-of-thorns and deliver a fatal dose of salts.
“It’s always great to see a robot you built let off the leash, so to speak, doing the job it’s intended for,” says Dr Matthew Dunbabin from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and Science and Engineering Faculty.
“We couldn’t be more ecstatic about how COTSbot has performed. The next generation will be even better and hopefully we can roll it out across the reef relatively quickly.”
Here’s the robot at work on the Great Barrier Reef:
COTSbot spent much of the trials tethered to a wifi-enabled boat beaming data back to the researchers and allowing the team to see through the robot’s cameras.
Crown-of-thorns starfish are responsible for an estimated 40% of the Great Barrier Reef’s decline in coral cover.
The researchers are now working with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to transform COTSbot into RangerBot, a multipurpose, multifunction robot for monitoring a range of issues facing coral reefs — coral bleaching, water quality, pest species, pollution and siltation.
The foundation is vying for a $750,000 Google Impact Challenge prize. If it wins, the funds will be used to develop the new platform and make it affordable for the front line of coral reef management.
Foundation managing director Anna Marsden encouraged the public to vote for the RangerBot before the October 26 deadline.
“The RangerBot will be a step change in technology — it thinks, it sees, it acts — it’s unlike anything else currently available and will be a fantastic tool for those who look after reefs worldwide,” says Marsden.
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