Unfortunately, when a big, ungainly human scuba diver swims in among farmed fish – exhaling columns of bubbles as they do so – the animals tend to get stressed. This can in turn lead to health problems. The same is true when relatively fast-moving ROVs (remotely-operated vehicles) are used.
Looking for a more fish-friendly alternative, Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa and colleagues tried out a camera-equipped robotic sea turtle known as U-CAT, which was previously developed at Estonia’s Tallinn University of Technology. Kruusmaa is affiliated with both that university and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
U-CAT is autonomous – so it’s untethered – and can quietly move up and down or forward and backward by selectively moving its four independently-driven flippers. When Maarja and her team tested it in salmon pens at a Norwegian fish farm, the fish remained calm, swimming quite close to the robot. By contrast, the salmon stayed far away from divers and ROVs.
According to Kruusmaa, the secret to U-CAT’s fishy success likely lies in its being small and slow-moving. Somewhat surprisingly, its quietness and turtle-like appearance aren’t that important.
“The fact that the robot looks like a marine animal doesn’t seem to play any role at all,” she says. “And that’s actually good news – it means we don’t have to build the robots to be fish- or turtle-like. That will make it cheaper to develop and use robots in this new field of application.”
The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
You can see U-CAT in action at the salmon farm, in the video below.
Source: Norwegian SciTech News
(For the source of this, and many other truly peculiar articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/robotics/robot-sea-turtle-fish-farm-inspection/)