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Pollution-hunting robot fish take to the sea May 22,2012   |  Source: Reuters

Robot "fish" developed by European scientists to improve pollution monitoring moved from the lab to the sea in a test at the northern Spanish port of Gijon on Tuesday.

The developers hope the new technology, which reduces the time it takes to detect a pollutant from weeks to seconds, will sell to port authorities, water companies, aquariums and anyone with an interest in monitoring water quality.

It could also have spin-offs for cleaning up oil spills, underwater security, diver monitoring or search and rescue at sea, they said.

The fish, which are 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and currently cost 20,000 pounds ($31,600) each, 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.

"Chemical sensors fitted to the fish permit real-time, in-situ analysis, rather than the current method of sample collection and dispatch to a shore based laboratory," said Luke Speller, a scientist at British consultancy BMT Group who led the project.

The fish can avoid obstacles, communicate with each other, map where they are and know how to return to base when their eight-hour battery

 

© Thomson Reuters

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