Coralbots Plans Global Engagement: Robot Teams That Repair Coral Reefs

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Coral reefs support around half a billion people, but are severely threatened; the Coralbots team plan to revolutionize how such threats are tackled, by using teams of autonomous underwater robots. The Coralbots Kickstarter campaign (closing May 26th) is reaching out to individuals and corporations who wish to make a lasting positive impact on the marine environment, and now offering ways for backers to be directly involved in the project.

prototype coralbot

Kickstarting environmental regeneration with crowdfunding and citizen science.

The ocean is Earth's largest biome covering over 70 percent of the planet, but is also threatened by multiple stressors such as bottom fishing, marine pollution including litter and climate change. Coral reefs support the livelihoods of almost half a billion people; marine litter affects around half of all marine mammals and kills almost a million seabirds per year. These threats require active and urgent intervention through habitat remediation and restoration to ensure global sustainability of human livelihoods and biodiversity. Addressing these tasks is time consuming, and habitat remediation or restoration can only be achieved in small patches for the moment. In the case of repairing damage to deep sea ecosystems, these tasks are also too dangerous for direct human intervention.

The Coralbots team is a group of marine scientists, computing (artificial intelligence) scientists and engineers committed to addressing these threats using novel, state-of-the-art innovations in computing, marine biology, and undersea robotics that will revolutionize how these and similar threats are addressed. The team will combine autonomous underwater robotics with 'swarm intelligence.' Nature shows how groups or swarms of organisms e.g. bees, termites and wasps operate collectively as one unit to achieve complex objectives by following simple rules. The Coralbots team plan to deploy teams of autonomous underwater robots to restore and rebuild damaged coral reefs.

The first future mission will restore reefs damaged by hurricanes and ship groundings in Belize. Running until May 26th 2013, the team have a project on Kickstarter to help accelerate this mission. Individuals and corporations are invited to work with them, by contributing directly to the Kickstarter campaign, and taking up the opportunity to be directly involved in the project work. Involvement of backers will be centered around helping the team accelerate development around the many ‘artificial intelligence’ tasks inherent in the project, ranging from recognition of coral in murky images, through to robot stability in strong currents. Global engagement will help the team accelerate the development and testing of improved solutions to these challenges. This project represents a glimpse of the future, where robotic intelligence works alongside human activity to repair, restore and protect the future of the global environment.

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David Corne

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