It looks like a carp, swims like a carp, and may even smell like a carp. But a fish being released into the waters of northern Spain is really a pollution-detecting robot.
Scientists in the U.K. have developed a robotic fish with tiny chemical sensors that detect potentially hazardous pollutants in the water. Researchers plan to release the fish into the water by the end of next year, and if the first batch of five is successful, they hope to use the fish to detect pollution—both on the surface as well as dissolved—in water systems around the world.
At 1.5 meters in length, the fish will be about the size of a seal, and will swim and wriggle just like real fish, at a maximum speed of about one meter per second. Unlike other robotic fish that are operated by remote control, the robot fish will be able to navigate autonomously, swimming through port areas and transmitting information via Wi-Fi to a control center. It will even know when it has to go back and recharge, so it won’t be left stranded by a dead battery.
Researchers will then use the data to map the source and scale of the pollution, which could include leaks from vessels or underwater pipelines. And needless to say, leaks are most easily fixed when caught early. Maybe air pollution-detecting robotic birds are up next?
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