Can a $31,000 fish help curb water pollution? Last week the SHOAL Consortium began testing robotic fish off the coast of Spain.
The 5-foot-long fish-shaped devices have chemical sensors and can sample and analyze water samples for a number of parameters themselves in real time, rather than transporting those samples to an onshore lab. They transmit the data to a shore-based station.
Equipped with artificial intelligence, the fish can navigate their surroundings and find their way back to shore when their batteries need to be recharged. If one fish detects significant or unusual pollutants, it can communicate with the others so that all can search together for the source, potentially spotting leaks or spills much faster than by conventional means. In addition to detecting pollutants, the robotic fish might also be used for applications like underwater security and search-and-rescue efforts, their inventors say.
Their development, which was funded in part by the European Union, made use of research from various universities and a European defense electronics firm. If testing goes well, the Consortium hopes to begin commercial production of the fish.