The world’s oceans are a vital component to the planet and a reflection of the health of said planet. Which is why growing acidification, increasing temperatures and pollution are key issues concerning scientists globally. Being able to quickly act on pollutants entering the seas is important to reduce the impact on the oceans, which is what a new program is attempting to do.
The SHOAL Consortium along with the BMT Group recently created robotic fish in order to monitor water pollution in real time. The robotic fish are approximately five feet in length and are able to blend in with their environment. The robotic fish are even said to swim like fish and are able to avoid obstacles, such as boats and marine life.
The robotic fish are currently being tested in northern Spain, in the port of Gijon. This is the first time the fish have been tested outside the lab and if successful, the fish will be manufactured in order to be placed in various locations across the globe. Each fish costs more than $31,000 but could potentially save coastal communities and countries much more if they detect pollutants prior to severe damage setting in.
The fish are equipped with sensors to pick up pollutants in the sea, ranging from chemicals dumped at sea to leaking boats. The design also enables the scientists to place specific pollutant sensors on the fish in order to pick up a variety of pollutants. The presence of pollutants will immediately be registered at a local laboratory and will be able to be dealt with in a much more timely manner than current methods employ. The fish also map their locations and return when their batteries begin running low, which takes approximately eight hours.
A senior scientist working on the project, Luke Speller, stated: “At the moment, in harbors, they take samples about once a month. And in that time, a ship could come into the harbor, leak some chemicals somewhere, then it’s gone all the way up the coastline. The idea is that we will use robot fish, which are in the harbor all of the time, and constantly checking for pollution.”