An Aquatic, Autonomous Terminator Robot Has Been Designed to Hunt Down Lionfish in the Caribbean

Monday, 27 August 2018 - 12:41PM
Technology
Robotics
Monday, 27 August 2018 - 12:41PM
An Aquatic, Autonomous Terminator Robot Has Been Designed to Hunt Down Lionfish in the Caribbean
< >
Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
If you ever need a practical example of scientific problem-solving in action, consider the lionfish, dubbed "the poster child for invasive species" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Recently, lionfish have begun invading the Caribbean Sea and gobbling up vast quantities of juvenile fish, which threatens the local fishing industries and the fragile coral reef population. To deal with the problem, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute has built the aquatic equivalent of a T-800 to hunt down lionfish and cull their numbers—all by itself.

On the surface, the robot isn't quite as intimidating as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator, but it's just as ingenious: current photos of the robot show it to be a plastic board with a motor, sensors, and Gatling-gun style spear apparatus mounted on the bottom, along with a pair of cameras. The robot will identify and shoot lionfish with spears attached to buoyancy devices, then let the dead fish float to the surface, allowing fishermen to collect them. Despite being incredibly good at disrupting ecosystems (lionfish can cull 90% of a reef's juvenile fish population in just five weeks), they're also quite valuable—lionfish meat sells for up to $20 a pound.

The team at WPI used machine learning to train the robot to hunt by running thousands of images of lionfish through a neural network until it was able to identify lionfish of different colors and at different angles. Ultimately, the robot was able to identify lionfish with 95% accuracy. According to Craig Puthnam, one of the senior instructors at WPI: "The students also showed the system pictures of what it absolutely must not aim at-namely divers!"

Right now, the plan is to finish up designing the robot's global navigation system and eventually sell it commercially to fishermen, who can deploy squads of them to help cut down on lionfish populations while simultaneously making money by selling the meat. Maybe in time, there will be a way to network these robots together into some kind of coordinated lionfish murder-army, dubbed FishNet. It seems Judgement Day for lionfish is rapidly approaching.

Science
Science News
Technology
Robotics
No