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Global perspectives: robot swims to rescue coral on the great barrier reef.

As the Great Barrier Reef heads perilously close to its death-seabed, the Australian government is seeking the aid of robotics to resuscitate the natural wonder.

The world's largest coral reef hosts a plethora of marine life. But pests in the ocean are partly responsible for the depletion of the reefs coral cover--the crown-of-thorns starfish is blamed for 40% of the coral decline.

To tackle this issue, an autonomous underwater vehicle has been developed by Queensland University of Technology. Researchers have completed field trials of the robot which can navigate difficult reefs, detect the starfish and deliver a fatal dose of bile salts, autonomously and precisely.

The researchers claim it is the first robot proven to control marine pests and the first ever built with an injection system. The robot spent the trials tethered to a wi-fi-enabled boat, beaming data to the researchers. This allowed the team to see through the robot's cameras, verify every crown-of-thorns starfish it identified, and approve injections of the pests before they happened.

The researchers are now working to transform the robot into Ranger Bot, a multipurpose machine for monitoring a range of issues -coral bleaching triggered by rising sea temperatures, water quality, pest species, pollution and siltation.

It isn't the first time technology has come to the rescue of natural habitats, from drones monitoring deforestation to GPS systems used to prevent poaching of endangered species. The reef robot has so far managed to remove around 50,000 crown-of-thorns starfish, according to the Australian government.

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Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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