Drones have become a significant part of the technology world, and now marine robots could soon be added to the list. A team of scientists from Australia are developing state-of-the-art robots to help them better understand waterways around the globe.
Matthew Dunbabin, a principal research fellow at the Institute of Future Environments at the Queensland University of Technology, said that Aquabots represent the most advanced way of measuring the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes.
Robots are already moving throughout the world’s waters due in no small part to the Argo environmental research project. The international initiative oversees a number of autonomous vessels that measure the water’s temperature, salinity, and movements. Argo says there are currently 3,881 Argo bots floating on the world’s oceans.
Dunbabin said the Argo bots float using a simple robotic buoy. They float along the oceans’ currents, diving to a depth of around 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) before floating to the surface every ten days to transmit their data.
Dunbabin is determined to advance their efforts by using more robots on inner waterways. Inference robots are a boat system that is designed to be fully autonomous and live on rivers and lakes for months on end. The solar-powered systems would use GPS to steer and move around. An on-board camera can help the system avoid obstacles such as vegetation or rocks. The systems can be configured to carry out different tasks using tools like a camera, greenhouse gas sensors, or a machine that collects water samples.
The robots are not very expensive; individual units cost less than $3,000. They can also be used to investigate polluted sites such as mines and other decommissioned sites.
The system is still in development. None of the robots have lasted more than a few weeks in the wild. Nevertheless, Dunbabin is ready to bring them to a wider market, saying, “Maybe we can put a replica system in Switzerland, the UK, the U.S. and have these multiple observing systems to really test what we know.”