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QUT creates reef-saving robot

Queensland roboticists have developed the world’s first robot designed to seek out and control the deadly crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) on the Great Barrier Reef, which are responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of the reef’s total decline in coral cover.

QUT robot COTSbot

Creator Dr Matthew Dunbabin, from QUT's Institute for Future Environments, said the COTSbot was equipped with stereoscopic cameras to give it depth perception, five thrusters to maintain stability, GPS and pitch-and-roll sensors, and a unique pneumatic injection arm to deliver a fatal dose of bile salts.

Dr Dunbabin built a vision system for detecting COTS ten years ago, but shelved the idea of building a robot due to the limitations of the control methods in use, which required divers to inject each COTS up to 20 times.

However building the robot became possible after a James Cook University breakthrough last year of a one-shot injection method to eradicate COTS.

Dr Dunbabin and computer vision specialist Dr Feras Dayoub will take COTSbot to the Great Barrier Reef later this month to trial it on living targets. In that trial, a human will verify each COTS identification the robot makes before the injection is made. The COTSbot is planned to be working the reef autonomously in December 2015.

The roboticists are seeking funding partners to scale up the manufacturing and deployment of the COTSbot.

Find out more.


Further information

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
18 July, 2017

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