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23 May 2012, 10:57
Robotic fish built by a team of scientists at the University of Essex have been in action at the Port of Gijon, Spain, showing how they can patrol the sea coast to detect and identify potential pollution in the port.
Traditional methods of monitoring pollution involve obtaining samples to be sent to a lab for testing, which can be time-consuming and makes real-time pollution information far from a reality.
SHOAL aims to make this process real-time by using autonomously-controlled fish to perform tests in-situ.
The life-like creatures are equipped with tiny chemical sensors to find the source of potentially hazardous pollutants in the water, such as leaks from vessels in the port or underwater pipelines. The fish communicate with each other using ultrasonics and information is transmitted to the port's control centre via Wi-Fi.
Professor Huosheng Hu, leading Essex robotics research team, said: "The SHOAL project has made several major developments: artificial intelligence-based algorithms, novel robotic fish development, real-time chemical analysis, underwater communication and hydrodynamics modelling.
"It is the world first for this kind of system capable of detecting and analysing pollutants in the sea water in real time. The robotic fish developed at Essex is able to operate in a harsh and dynamic condition of the sea up to a depth of 30 metres. "This is a great advancement, comparing with most of the previous robotic fish operating in laboratory conditions and static water."