Sometimes, it seems that a good ol’ hunt is the solution to a problem, and a robot will be hunting down killer starfish that plague the Great Barrier Reef northeast of Australia.
The continent is famously littered with dangerous species of unusual creatures, and the Crown-of-Thorns (COT) Starfish seems to be among those on the hit list. Its presence poses a huge threat to the population of corals that are known as one of the reef’s biggest attractions, drawing divers and tourists there to see the magnificent display of life and colors.
However, the population has seen a decline within the last ten years, and 40% of the blame lands on the spiky shoulders of the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, who kill and eat the coral. The only bigger threats are cyclones, according to Dr. Matthew Dunbabin from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute for Future Environments.
They present a threat to the life making their home on the reef, and their extermination had proved itself to be a pest in itself. Divers had to manually find them, and proceed to inject them up to 10 times before the harmful starfish’s life came to an end.
However, due to a breakthrough at James Cook University, it has enabled them to develop a single shot system through which the COT will be dead after just one injection of bile salts. The brutal effects of the shot include “discolored or necrotic skin, loss of spines, and large, open sores that expose the internal organs” of the starfish.
It may seem like a harsh and violent death, but it’s been doing its job in killing the reef almost singlehandedly, so it can be said it had it coming.
With the advancement of technology though, Dunbabin has been able to take the process further, by no longer requiring divers to head down into the waters, and instead created the COTSbot, the robotic hitman whose sole target are the pesky creatures. ‘Starfish Killer’ would sound like too much of a violent and general name perhaps.
It looks like a miniature yellow submarine (no Beetles reference has been confirmed), equipped with an autonomous vision system that will permit it to detect and approach its victim, having gone through extensive image recognition previous to its competition. Now, the researchers are equipping it with salt bile injections and letting it loose through the waters, but not unsupervised at first.
The COTSbot will be able to deliver 200 injections in a 8 hours, and will be under the control of humans at first in order to make sure it won’t be killing the wrong form of reef life. Its programming will be set ignore unidentifiable creatures, and to ask permission before injecting its lethal dose of salt bile.
Researchers have assured that the robot is completely environmentally safe, battery-powered so it will not spill fuel into the waters, the salt bile has no known damaging impact, and should it shut down, it will float up to the surface, so there will be no debris polluting the ocean floor. Now all that remains to be seen is its success before they begin larger scale manufacturing.