A team of intelligent robots are being developed in Scotland to save some of the nation’s precious coral reefs. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are making what are being called “coralbots” which will be able to re-assemble damaged coral pieces. In this way, they can regrow, according to the researchers.
Coral reefs are found in deep waters west of Scotland. They offer homes to thousands of fish and sharks. In fact, about a quarter of all marine life lives in and around coral, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Coral is a living organism found often in warm marine water, or cold water such as off the coast of Scotland, according to BCS.org. But, Scottish corals are being damaged by bottom fishing.
“The biggest, most immediate threat to deep-sea corals like the ones we have in waters off western Scotland is the bottom-fishing industry that damages and kills these corals,” Lea-Anne Henry, a Heriot-Watt University professor who is leading the research project, explained in a university statement.
The coral reefs are also damaged by pollution, according to the BBC. Limited regrowth of the coral is being done through the efforts of volunteer scuba divers who re-assemble coral fragments. But the divers can only spend limited time under water, and they can’t reach down to 200 meters where deep-sea coral is found.
This is where the robots come in.
Teams of small, autonomous robots locate coral fragments and cement them to the reef. It will take the robots just days or weeks to accomplish the task, rather than many years or centuries for them to regrow on their own.
The robots are also being taught how to recognize coral fragments in the water.
The robots are about a meter long, and have built-in video, image-processing, as well as scoops and arms. They work in a way scientists say resembles "swarms," the BBC said. The robots can be put into use in other regions of the world, too.
Heriot-Watt Professor David Corne added that, “The most exciting thing about this project is that it offers us the potential to restore the function of reefs, both shallow and deep, across the globe, which we all enjoy and benefit from in some way.”
In other research projects, scientists have developed underwater robots which can detect mines, SDNzone reported.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli