Autonomous Pollution-Hunting Robot Fish Introduced into Their (Un)natural Habitat

Robotic fish, developed by a team of European scientists from universities across the continent, today were introduced into their (un)natural habitat, at the northern Spanish port Gijon.

The Shoal Consortium, as it is called, a European Commission-funded group from academia and business that has developed these underwater robots, comprises BMT Group, a technology consultancy, and Thales Safare, a unit of Europe's largest defense electronics group, which was responsible for the communication technology, among other academic institutions.

The fish measure 5 feet in length and cost the equivalent of $31,500. After tests this week, the team will make modifications to the model and hopefully move forward to commercial production, which is projected to bring down the cost-per-fish.

Their developers hope the new technology will attract buyers from port authorities, water companies, aquariums and the like. The fish would be of particular use in large-scale environmental disasters like oil spills, as they cut down the time it takes to detect pollutants from weeks to mere seconds.

Luke Speller, a scientist at BMT Group who led the project, explains that the fish are fitted with chemical sensors that permit real-time, in situ analysis. Data is transmitted from the fish directly back to a shore station standing by.

Among other advanced features, the fish have the ability to communicate with one another, swim independently, map where they are and determine how and to return to base, when their eight-hour batter-life is running low. [Reuters, BBC News]