River and sea polluters better watch out because robofish is out to get you. An EC-funded experiment will be taking place at the end of next year in the port of Gijon, Spain, using 1.5 metre robofish to detect and track down the sources of pollution.
Each robot resembles a carp and undulates like a real fish as it swims around at one metre per second to find leaks from ships and underwater pipelines. Pollution is detected by chemical detectors and the results are radioed back to the research team via a Wi-Fi link allowing the research team to map out the source and effect of the leaks. The fish swim autonomously around the port rather than being steered remotely and they can also find their way back home for recharging at the end of an eight-hour shift.
Each fish costs around £20,000 and five are being engineered by a robotics team headed by Professor Huosheng Hu at Essex University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.
UK company BMT Group is co-ordinating the project and its senior research scientist Rory Doyle said, “While using shoals of robotic fish for pollution detection in harbours might appear like something straight out of science fiction, there are very practical reasons for choosing this form. In using robotic fish we are building on a design created by hundreds of millions of years’ worth of evolution which is incredibly energy efficient. This efficiency is something we need to ensure that our pollution detection sensors can navigate in the underwater environment for hours on end.”