The Crown of Thorns starfish (COTS) has been a destructive force on reefs for years. They eat coral and reproduce like mad. Humans have been fighting this creature and now have a new robotic “terminator” helping with the cause.
Researchers at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have deployed the COTSbot in Queensland’s Moreton Bay to test its mechanical parts and navigation system. The robot is programmed to identify COTS and deliver a lethal injection of poison.
Dr Matthew Dunbabin from QUT created the COTSbot and equipped it with stereoscopic cameras to give it depth perception, five thrusters to maintain stability, GPS and pitch-and-roll sensors and a unique pneumatic injection arm to deliver the fatal dose of bile salts.
“Human divers are doing an incredible job of eradicating this starfish from targeted sites but there just aren’t enough divers to cover all the COTS hotspots across the Great Barrier Reef,” noted Dunbabin. “We see the COTSbot as a first responder for ongoing eradication programmes – deployed to eliminate the bulk of COTS in any area, with divers following a few days later to hit the remaining COTS.”
So how exactly does the COTSbot decipher a COTS from another organism on the reef? The robot has a cutting edge computer with an advanced machine learning system. The team has spent the last six months developing and training the robot to recognize COTS by using thousands of still images of the reef and videos taken by COTS-eradicating divers.
The COTSbot can be deployed on the reef for up to eight hours at a time, delivering more than 200 lethal shots.
[via Deccan Herald]