Coral-fixing robots need a Kickstart

© Ocean Systems Laboratory

Last August we wrote about a project from Heriot-Watt University where coralbots -- underwater robots programmed with the task to repair damaged coral -- were being developed. The initiative included a plan for swarms of these robots to be deployed to sites where bottom-trawling fishing or major storms had left coral vulnerable. Now, that project has landed on Kickstarter and you can help fund this important technology.

The University says on their Kickstarter page:

Coral reefs support over 500 million people across the globe. But reefs are being damaged on a global scale by storms, destructive fishing, ship groundings and careless tourists. It can take many years to decades for them to heal. We can speed up the process by using scuba divers that re-attach healthy pieces of coral back onto the reef... But this is very time consuming and mostly conducted by volunteers. Also, this method cannot be used to repair reefs in deeper waters because of depth limits to humans diving.

The answer: ‘coralbots’.

Coral-bots are a team of robots that intelligently navigate across a damaged coral reef, transplanting pieces of healthy corals along the way. The big job of developing and testing the robots at sea has already been done. All that remains is to embed the robots with computer vision to “see” healthy bits of coral, and configure appropriate manipulator arms for each robot to pick up and put down the pieces in the right spots.

The university is looking to raise $107,000 over the next 40 days. Money raised through Kickstarter will let them assemble the necessary kit and have two complete robots to perform their first live demonstration on a coral reef at a public aquarium. After a few successful demonstrations, the coralbots will be deployed in coral reefs off Belize. Ultimately the university wants to expand the team size to eight robots to use on coral reefs around the globe.

You can watch more about the coralbot project below.

Tags: Coral Reefs | Oceans | Technology

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