Underwater robots tasked with saving coral reefs are being developed at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland.
Dubbed "coralbots", they are being designed to work in groups, in a similar manner to bees and ants. The team is still "training" the software that will control the bots to "recognise" corals and distinguish them from other sea objects. Corals are easily damaged by pollution and destructive fishing practices, and it takes decades for them to re-grow. They are colonies of tiny living organisms, most commonly found in warm shallow waters in the tropics. But the depths of the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland are home to cold-water reefs. When they get damaged, scuba divers re-cement broken fragments, helping them re-grow - but it is tricky for divers to reach depths over 200m. Coralbots, the researchers hope, will be a lot more efficient, able to repair the reefs in days or weeks. The team, which consists of a marine biologist, an artificial intelligence scientist, a roboticist, and a machine vision scientist, said it was trying to raise £2m to hold a first demonstration.
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