The Shoal project is a European 7th framework research initiative led by professor Huosheng Hu and his team at the university of essex creating a new type of real-time harbour pollution monitoring system via robotic fish.
The fish are currently being field tested in the port of Gijon, Spain where water quality monitoring is now dependent on human divers and laboratory testing that only occurs around once per month (and costs up to €100,000 per year to maintain).
“By having autonomously controlled fish with chemical sensors attached we aim to do these tests in-situ. Further the fish will also be given an intelligence so that if they do find significant amounts of pollution and they deduce it’s coming from a source they will all work together to find the source of the pollution so that the port can stop the problem early before more pollution occurs.”
Outfitted with a sonar system for communication and a host of electrochemical sensors measuring heavy metals and water quality (Dissolved O2, Conductivity, ORP) levels the fish use their built-in swarm intelligence system to quickly narrow down the location and extent of the pollution source and send the information back to port authorities to take proper action. An infrared, GPS, and other sensor data also help the fish to measure their position, heading, speed etc and ensure that the fish are not stolen or damaged.
Although still in development mode the project coordinators would eventually like to commercialize the project and sell these systems to ports throughout the EU and the world. You can learn more about the project details at roboshoal.com