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Coming Soon to a Body of Water Near You: Pollution Sniffing Robot Fish
Sarah Kuck, 25 Mar 09

If it looks like a fish and moves like a fish -- there's a chance it may be a robot.

British scientists are ready to introduce five pollution-sniffing robots into the northern Spanish port of Gijon, according to Reuters. If this trial is successful, the scientists hope the seal-sized robots will be used in lakes, rivers and seas throughout the world.

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The scientists used biomimicry principles to design the carp-shaped robots to ensure energy efficiency, which will allow the robots to sustain lengthy, underwater detection missions.

The carp-shaped robots, costing 20,000 pounds ($29,000) apiece, mimic the movement of real fish and are equipped with chemical sensors to sniff out potentially hazardous pollutants, such as leaks from vessels or underwater pipelines.
They will transmit the information back to shore using Wi-Fi technology.
Unlike earlier robotic fish, which needed remote controls, they will be able to navigate independently without any human interaction.
Rory Doyle, senior research scientist at engineering company BMT Group, which developed the robot fish with researchers at Essex University, said there were good reasons for making a fish-shaped robot, rather than a conventional mini-submarine.
"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," he said. "This efficiency is something we need to ensure that our pollution detection sensors can navigate in the underwater environment for hours on end."

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It will be interesting to see if these bots can really return results. Being able to pinpoint underwater pollution for focused remediation efforts would be invaluable, as cleaning up our polluted waters is essential to our health and the health of our marine and land ecosystems. Planetary management hasn't been our strong suit lately, but maybe we are learning and getting smarter about how we relate to and can work with our planet.

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