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Starfish Invasion Resolved! Killer Robot Now Screening Great Barrier Reef

Nov 11, 2016 04:50 AM EST

Large-scale coral cover depletion in the Great Barrier Reef has been attributed to different factors, and one of them is due to the invasion of the crown-of-thorns. Just recently, updates on the terminator-like robots which hunt down these COTs shed hope on resolving the invasion including additional future upgrades for better performances.

Lead by a research team from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), a robot called COTSbot was firstly introduced last year and was even dubbed as the reefs' 'Terminator'. After several months, it has now been tested on the field and the robot performs much better as the team has expected.

Feras Dayoub, one of the researchers from QUT, said on Science Direct that the capabilities of COTSbot are quite astonishing, especially with its machine learning system. To eradicate the COTs, the robot uses a computer vision and ejects a lethal amount of bile salts to kill them. "The robot’s detection rate is outstanding, particularly because COTS blend in very well with the hard, corals they feed on, and because the robot must detect them in widely varying lighting conditions and shapes as they hide among the coral," Dayoub said.

Just last month, the innovative robot has won a financial support from Google through a project with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by winning the people's choice vote for Google Impact Challenge Australia. Summing up with a total of 750,000 Australian dollars, the new upgraded robot will be called RangerBot. "It will stay under the water almost three times longer than a human diver, gather vastly more data, and operate in all conditions and all times of the day or night," according to Matthew Dunbabin who is also a member of the QUT research team.

The soon-to-be RangerBot will be much smaller and is expected to make more than what the COTSbot can do. Aside from hunting down the crown-of-thorns, it will also simultaneously collect data and do water quality analysis and even monitoring of coral cover. According to the representative of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's Anna Marsden, the COTSbot and RangerBot concepts are truly in line with what their group is fighting for. "We’re very grateful the world shares our vision, so generously voting to protect reefs around the globe," she said.

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