17 March 2009
£2.5 million to analyse port pollution
Researchers at the University of Essex have been awarded a share of £2.5 million to develop robotic fish that analyse and monitor pollution in a port.
Professor Huosheng Hu will lead the Essex robotics team, joined by Dr John Gan and Dr Dongbing Gu, who are also from the University's School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. They will develop autonomous robotic fish, which can function independently and as part of a team.
The fish will be equipped with chemical sensors to find pollutants in the water, so can analyse contaminants in ports and produce a real-time 3D map of the port, showing what concentrations of pollutants are present and where. They will be designed to adapt quickly to changes in the port environment, with advanced swarm intelligence techniques used to control and coordinate them.
Professor Hu explains: 'The project is a “world first”. We will develop a team of robotic fish to search and analyse chemicals on the surface of the water (eg oil), as well as those dissolved in the water. Issues such as data security, communication, and clean energy will be interesting challenges.'
The technology developed will enable a port authority to gain increased mobility and flexibility to monitor ship-source pollution, as well as other types of harmful contaminants and pollutants from underwater pipelines. In addition to benefitting these monitoring operations in EU ports, the project should lead to important advances in robotics, chemical analysis, underwater communications and robot intelligence.
This research is part of the ‘SHOAL’ project, which involves six partners from four European countries and has been backed by the EU Seventh Framework Programme Theme 3-ICT. It aims to develop a cutting-edge method for monitoring pollution in ports.
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