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Centre for

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.


Coral-bots making headlines

A team of researchers, including Lea-Anne Henry from the CMBB are making headlines again with the release of their 'CoralBots' project. Over the last year, the team (Dr. Lea-Anne Henry-marine biologist, Prof. David Corne-artificial intelligence scientist, Prof. David Lane-autonomous undersea vehicle engineer and Dr. Neil Robertson-computer vision scientist) have been developing swarm and vision algorithms and testing robotic platforms for their suitability as CoralBots. 




In collaboration with grassroots organisations in Belize and researchers at the Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Florida, the team now have computer programs that can visually discriminate colonies of the critically endangered coral Acropora cervicornis, and programs to direct swarm robotic tasks such as searching and reconstructing a three-dimensionally complex structure. In the future, the team aim to take on the challenge of reconstructing deep cold-water coral reefs damaged by bottom fishing using fragments of corals grown in the laboratory and transplanting these with teams of robots operating independently in swarms, like bees and ants.

Last week, the CoralBots team launched a global fundraising campaign through the US website Here the public can view the CoralBots project and donate to its fundraising target of 107,000 USD. Funds will be used to add a manipulator arm to one of the autonomous robots at Heriot-Watt University (her name is Nessie), and configure Nessie with the programs they have been developing so she can perform her coralbot tasks in a public aquarium in Scotland. In just one week, the team has already raised 20,000 USD, but they must raise the full amount to receive the funds, with the campaign finishing on the 27th of May. Please visit the site to find out more.