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Killer Machines? Robots Could Wipe Out Invasive Lionfish in the Atlantic

Sep 28, 2016 03:51 AM EDT

Together with other conservationists, iRobot's CEO, Colin Angle formed a non-profit group called Robots in the Service of the Environment (RISE), they aim to "wipe out" invasive lionfish through their robot inventions.

Lionfish or Pterois genus are commonly seen in aquariums, and while they do not seem to harm when enclosed in tanks, it is a different story when they are back in the wild. Recently, the population of lionfish has been growing rapidly in the Atlantic and are now invading the area.

Also, being predators, lionfish preys on smaller fish, including native fish in that area, which results to declining numbers of the latter. Thus, the invasive lionfish poses as a threat to the marine ecosystem of the Western Atlantic.

There are ways being used to reduce lionfish's numbers, ranging from hunting expeditions, training sharks to making lionfish as jewelry; but perhaps, the most effective is the diving robots.

The robots are controlled via a remote camera and has a cage that will capture the lionfish after being "electrified" by the two small disks or electrodes situated in the front of the device. RISE aims to create a complete robot that features a collection of component systems, including an ROV platform, capture mechanism, control system, vision system, user interface, and more, according to their website.

"Think of it as a video game," says RISE executive director John Rizzi told CNN. "It will be a tethered device with a control mechanism that you drop into the water," he says. "You drive the ROV until you see the fish -- a lot of the technology is in the cameras -- then you drive the ROV onto the fish and press the trigger."

Lionfish is covered with bold stripes and their fins have arranged rows of venomous spines. It can grown from 2 to 17.7 inches (5 and 45 centimeters) long and weighs up to 2.9 pounds (1.3 kilograms). What makes lionfish so notorious is the fact that in the Atlantic, they are never preys. Divers cannot even just go to hunt them as these fish can go deeper in the ocean.

"The average recreational diver stays close to shore and can only dive to 80 to 100 feet [24 to 30 meters]," Rizzi, explained to Live Science. "Big colonies of lionfish have been found down to 900 feet [274 m]. We believe this device is the only way to economically kill populations off at greater depths."

Read More:
Lionfish Infestation: Can Eating the Venomous Lionfish Help Save the Planet?
Mediterranean Sea Comes Under Threat from Lionfish Invasion
Invasive Species and Aquatic Nuisance: Still Eating Lionfish

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