Will the jobs of our reef conservation team members one day be replaced by underwater robots? It seems unlikely, but that is the dream of researchers and inventors at a Scottish University. They are working to create tiny robots which function much like swarming insects, for as Dev would say, “many hands make light work.”
If created, hundreds of the tiny robots could be deployed in coral reef areas to locate broken fragments of coral. Just like our NHRCP divers are trained to do. Next, the robots would identify a stable but non-living structure on the reef, and attach the coral fragment using underwater epoxy or cement.
The benefits of doing so are immediate, coral fragments which would otherwise die are given a chance to survive, and grow to increase the coral abundance on the reef. This is one of the most effective forms of reef maintenance, but is very time consuming. The robots would be able to work around the clock, never stopping for biscuit breaks on the boat. And, by using swarm behavior, they could tackle a wide range of projects large or small.
Although this project still lies in the realm of science-fiction, we for one hope that it can soon become science-fact. It is always pleasing to hear about people who do not work in small steps towards their goal, but take giant leaps. Thank you to people like this for keeping us saying; ‘what will they think of next?’
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