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Robots, once a figment of our imagination, have started to become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. We are used to talking cell phones and driverless trains. But what about pollution-fighting fish robots?
Dr. Huosheng Hu with an early prototype. photo: MotherboardTV
The Shoal Consortium, a group of scientists from University of Essex, the Tyndall National Institute, the University of Strathclyde together with BMT Group, a technology consultancy, and Thales Safare, a unit of Europe’s largest defense electronics group and the Port Authority of Gijon have developed a robotic fish that can detect and report pollution from the source, in real-time.
Luke Speller from the Shoal Consortium explains how it works in this video from BBC News.
Last week, a school of prototype robo-fish was released in the northern Spanish Port of Gijón in the Bay of Biscay. The school of 5-foot long mechanical fish will patrol the harbor, collecting and mapping real-time data of contaminants in the water. The robots detect heavy metals like copper, lead and phenols while operating to depths of around 95 feet. They can also measure oxygen and salinity levels to help monitor the harbor’s environmental health.
Designed to mimic nature, the robotic fish have built-in acoustic sensors so they can “talk” to each other, sonar to “see” and avoid obstacles and a computer brain that tells them where and how best to hunt down sources of pollution.
SHOAL robotic fish released into the wild. photo Luke Speller
From BBC News: Ian Dukes from the University of Essex – another partner in the consortium – says that nature was an obvious inspiration for their robot.
He explains: “Over millions of years, fish have evolved the ultimate hydrodynamic shape, and we have tried to mimic that in the robot. “They swim just like fish; they are really quite agile and can change direction quickly, even in shallow water.”
The dual-hinged fish-tail is very maneuverable, enabling the robo-fish to make tight turns a propeller-driven robot couldn’t manage. This makes them easily able to navigate the ports and avoid ships and the port infrastructure.
They are also less noisy, which is better for marine life. The robo-fish are battery-powered and run for about 8 hours between charges. For now, they have to be picked up by boat, but in the future, the scientists plan to program the fish to automatically return to a charging station when the battery runs low.
Watch more at MotherboardTV about the development of the robo-fish.
SHOAL robotic fish. photo Luke Speller
Currently, divers monitor water quality about once a month – a costly, time-consuming process. The port of Gijón pays 100,000 euro a year for divers to collect water samples which are then sent away for analysis for several weeks. The SHOAL robo-fish monitor the water quality in real-time allowing the port authorities to respond immediately to pollution and start mitigating the effects.
“The idea is that we want to have real-time monitoring of pollution, so that if someone is dumping chemicals or something is leaking, we can get to it straight away, find out what is causing the problem and put a stop to it,” explains Luke Speller to the BBC.
While the primary purpose for the robo-fish is to monitor water pollution, that’s not all the scientists and engineers have planned. The modular design makes it easily adaptable for other uses. The developers hope to refine the robo-fish technology for oil-spill cleanup, maritime search and rescue, and port security.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
The Kosciuszko Bridge at sunset. credit: Mitch Waxman
The Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will begin in the Spring of 2013 – a year early – thanks to a $460 million boost made available by Governor Cuomo’s New York Works initiative. New York Works is a sort of infrastructure bank that draws on combined government and private funds in order to expedite spending on big projects.
Long slated for replacement, the Kosciuszko Bridge once topped a list of NY’s worst bridges and roads by the The General Contractors Association of New York and was fast tracked partially due to being on NY State’s “deficient bridge” list.
From Crains NY: The Kosciuszko, which links the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens across Newtown Creek; and the expressway, which connects the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, on the Top 10 list of troubled New York state-owned elevated roadways and bridges in the city in terms of their structural condition.
From the NY Daily News: The 73-year-old bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek, qualified for the money in part because it is on the state’s “deficient bridge” list.
The new cable-stayed bridge design was chosen in 2010, after analysis of environmental studies, partnering with community groups and stakeholders and open public comment sessions. Here is a video presentation from Project Visualization of the proposed design, with the new design rendered in situ from the NY Department of Transportation.
Construction of the new bridge will occur along side the existing bridge, and will have 9 lanes for vehicle traffic. The new bridge will also have pedestrian and bike access, which the existing design does not allow for, and something I am personally looking forward to.
From the NY Daily News: The initial phase of construction will build an eastbound lane next to the existing bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, the agency overseeing the project. The 1.1-mile bridge is expected to be done in 2017 and will cost about $800 million. When completed, two new spans with a total of nine vehicle lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes will replace the original structure.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2017. It will be a new experience to be able to walk or bike over this new bridge, vistas previously beyond our sight will be opened up with this new access.
I wonder what the view from mid-span will be 5 years from now.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee