Pollution-Hunting Robofish to the Undersea Rescue

One day soon, a mechanized fish may be monitoring our water supply.
The future of fish may involve more than just food. (Photo: Tim Laman / Getty)
May 22, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

European scientists have developed a robot fish that they hope will improve pollution monitoring, reports Reuters. The first successful test took place at the northern Spanish port of Gijon earlier today.

The new technology would reduce the time it takes to detect a pollutant from weeks to seconds and “could also have spin-offs for cleaning up oil spills, underwater security, diver monitoring or search and rescue at sea.” The fish are five feet long and currently have a fairly steep cost of around $31,000.

This is certainly welcome news for specialists who currently use a variety of complex tests to monitor the chemical condition of water and sediments. In the United States, for example, the robot fish would be a game-changer for the Office of Water, which ensures that our drinking water is safe and implements the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

Reuters notes that these aquatic robots are “designed to swim like real fish and are fitted with sensors to pick up pollutants leaking from ships or undersea pipelines. They swim independently, co-ordinate with each other, and transmit their readings back to a shore station up to a kilometer away.” They can also, “avoid obstacles, communicate with each other, map where they are and know how to return to base when their eight-hour battery life is running low.”

While some people may balk at the $31,000 price tag, it’s expected that the cost will drop if the fish goes into commercial production. Compared to the $6.5 million the military has spent in the last three years purchasing $17,000 drip pans used to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters, I’d say these undresea critters seem like a bargain.

Do you think the U.S. should look into purchasing these robotic fish?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence

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