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Robot drones could protect the Great Barrier Reef by killing crowns of thorns

An underwater drone capable of monitoring the health of the Great Barrier Reef and killing invasive species is ready to be put to the test.

Queensland University of Technology researchers say their robotic reef protection can monitor coral bleaching and water quality, pest species, pollution and sediment buildup.

It has also been trained to detect Thorn Crown Starfish with 99% accuracy and can inject coral-feeding starfish with vinegar or bile salts, both of which are lethal to the invasive predator.

Professor Matthew Dunbabin said RangerBot was not only autonomous, but could also stay underwater three times longer than a human diver and work in all weather conditions.

"It's an impressive piece of technology, [it’s] also deliberately inexpensive to allow production to be scaled up once the next stage of operational testing is complete and all the necessary permits are in place," he said Friday.

said Dunbabin, the team hoped for it Finally, the drones start the length of the 2,300-kilometer-long reef.

He said that the robot was equipped with real-time guidance so that it could avoid obstacles by moving in any direction.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation CEO Anna Marsden said the robot could become an extra pair of eyes and hands for the frontline staff.

"Because of its size and complexity, effective management is a mammoth and expensive task," she said.

RangerBot is a collaboration between QUT, Google and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

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