Coral reefs are a critically important part of the sea ecosystem. However, excessive fishing in areas such as the west of Scotland has caused massive damage to these reefs, which are home to many diverse variety of fishes. Trawlers passing the site also tend to damage these structure and so far, there had been no way to effectively repair such damage.
Now the researchers at Heriot-Watt University are working on such microrobots which can go underwater and help the damaged coral reefs. These robots will accomplish this by finding the debris of the damaged reefs and piece it together, so as to allow these reefs to start regrowing.
The region where the researchers intend to deploy these robots is the sea belt to the west of Scotland. Reefs in the region have been damaged rather critically because of a number of factors. The damaged reefs can naturally grow back but that takes tens of years.
External help in assisting the damaged reefs to regrow can really bolster the rate at which they grow back.
That is precisely what the swarm microrobots being developed at HW University are aimed at. These tiny machines are programmed to ‘identify’ the coral reefs amid all other underwater objects and then embark on the work of finding coral fragments which have separated from the reefs. The robots then piece these together and cement them back to the reef.
In the past, scuba divers have tried to accomplish more or less the same task but they had little success given the limitations of human body under water. These divers couldn’t stay underwater for too long neither can they dive beyond a depth of 200 meters.
Therefore, the researchers working on the project are very optimistic about the ‘swarm’ robots and believe that they are a fairly viable solution to this problem. Dr. Lea-Anne Henry of the School of Life Sciences is leading the project. He says, “Swarms of robots would be instantaneously deployed after a hurricane or in a deep area known to be impacted by trawling, and rebuild the reef in days to weeks, instead of years to centuries.”