Centre Researchers Chief Investigator Matt Dunbabin and Research Fellow Feras Dayoub won the people’s choice award in the Google Impact Challenge Australia in 2016. The award is worth $750,000. Their project with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will create a low-cost ‘robo reef protector’. The foundation says the team will build on the researchers’ successful COTSbot platform, which was designed to try to tackle one of the greatest threats to the reef, the crown-of-thorns starfish, or COTS. The COTSbot identifies a crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) and injects it with a solution to kill it. “To be recognised in this way is pretty awesome,” said Dr Dunbanin, an Associate Investigator with the Centre. “We learnt a lot from COTSbot, what works, what doesn’t work. What we learnt will be brought into the new design.”
The team now wants to create the RangerBot, a low-cost, more versatile version of the COTSbot. It will do that by shrinking COTSbot, adding a suite of vision-based sensors and developing a range of attachments to tackle various monitoring and management activities along the Great Barrier Reef. “This is a fantastic opportunity that opens the door to building more robots that will help protect the Reef,” said Dr Dayoub, a Research Fellow with the Centre. “This motivates us to answer the support of the people who voted for us by working very hard towards building a great robot, the RangerbBot.” The Google Impact Challenge Australia was created to help not-for-profit organisations develop technologies that can help tackle the world’s biggest social challenges. Certainly, the Great Barrier Reef and its health is an important challenge facing Australia. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, an organisation truly dedicated to reef conservation,” said Dr Dunbabin. The funding will also allow the team to drive down the cost of building the robot, making it affordable for communities.
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