Coral Reef restoration programs have been running around the world for a while now to grow and transplant coral in an attempt to restore existing coral reefs. There is no doubt that the work these programs do is invaluable but they are very labour intensive, generally lack funding, are very localised, rely heavily on volunteers and is limited to recreational diving depths. Technology is an obviously solution to a time consuming task with robots being about to meticulously carry out a task continuously, operate beyond the ability of us mere mortals and only stop for maintenance. Add to this swarm intelligence to carry tasks and be aware of this surroundings and other robots doing the same or supportive tasks and you’ve got a tireless team of underwater robots. What might take a team of divers a month or more to replant or position healthy coral could potentially be completed by a dedicated team of robots in a week or less. The underwater swarm robot design has already been developed and tested and is ready for its first real world mission. The developers of coralbots, based in Edinburgh, have recently created a Kickstarter project to help get the first mission underway and build the rest of the robots required to begin the first phase of tests. Kickstarter allows anyone to back this project, donating much appreciated funds in exchange for recognition or opportunities based on your donation level.
The image above shows the bot that the team hopes to use for the trials. ‘Nessie 4’ is a versatile platform that allows for on board cameras for coral and environmental recognition, computing for intelligence as well as manoeuvrable arms and grippers.
The possibilities for autonomous robots working to help restore the marine environment are pretty much endless, the problem technology is always the funding to develop the hardware and time to create the instructions that the robots will use to carry out a new task. Projects like ‘Coralbots’ are the start of a growing use of robots to carry on helping and protecting our valuable reefs beyond our current limits. If you would like to learn more or even donate to this great project then head over to their Kickstarter page We’d like to hear if you have you seen, heard of, financially backed or even run a similar project or program. Please leave a comment for everyone to get involved.