Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

‘Drones of the Sea’ Will Protect the Great Barrier Reef From Coral-Killing Starfish

Popular
‘Drones of the Sea’ Will Protect the Great Barrier Reef From Coral-Killing Starfish
QUT

The Great Barrier Reef is under constant threat from climate change and aggressive pests, so it's a good thing that scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have built it it's own Terminator to defend it.


The RangerBot is the first underwater drone designed specifically for coral reefs, and it's ready to be deployed on the reef as of Aug. 31, QUT announced in a press release.

Perhaps the bot's most distinctive feature is its ability to spot reef-devouring crown-of-thorns starfish with 99.4 percent accuracy and inject them with a lethal dose of vinegar or bile salts, as The Guardian reported.

But the 15 kilogram (approximately 33 pound) robot can also monitor other dangers threatening the reef, like coral bleaching and pollution, according to QUT.

"We believe this represents a significant technology leap in both marine robotics and reef protection—the only autonomous, affordable, multi-function solution for effectively detecting and addressing threats to coral reefs," QUT Professor Matthew Dunbabin said in the press release.

The project was funded after the concept won $750,000 from the 2016 Google Impact Challenge People's Choice Prize and was also developed with the support of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Dunbabin said the RangerBot was designed specifically to be affordable so it could be scaled up and widely used by reef managers and researchers.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said that, even though the Great Barrier Reef was the most well managed in the world, it's size still made the process difficult and costly.

"RangerBot has the potential to revolutionize the way we manage our oceans and is an important tool to have at our disposal in the quest to save our coral reefs," she said in the QUT release.

A graphic posted to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by Dunbabin explains how the RangerBots could help keep the reef safe at low cost.

Six human divers could only cover half of the reef in a year and the process would cost about $1.44 million. Six RangerBots, on the other hand, could cover the reef 14 times in one year and would cost $720,000.

Further, a human diver can only accomplish one task at a time, while RangerBots could complete several at once and could stay underwater day or night.

It's not for nothing that Dunbabin pitched this multi-purpose drone as a "swiss-army-knife" for the reef.

The RangerBots are also easy to use, as they only take 15 minutes to learn to operate by tablet, Dunbabin said in the QUT release.

"This project and partnership with QUT and Google is about putting these cost-effective, flexible and readily deployable 'drones of the sea' into the hands of the people at the front line of looking after and managing our coral reefs, as extra 'hands and eyes' to manage those critical environments," Marsden told QUT.

A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Flowers like bladderwort have changed their UV pigment levels in response to the climate crisis. Jean and Fred / CC BY 2.0

As human activity transforms the atmosphere, flowers are changing their colors.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A factory in Newark, N.J. emits smoke in the shadow of NYC on January 18, 2018. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis / Getty Images

By Sharon Zhang

Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.

Read More Show Less
A meteoroid skims the earth's atmosphere on Sept. 22, 2020. European Space Agency

A rare celestial event was caught on camera last week when a meteoroid "bounced" off Earth's atmosphere and veered back into space.

Read More Show Less
A captive elephant is seen at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Littlebourne, England. Suvodeb Banerjee / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Bob Jacobs

Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch