Coral reefs are one of the diverse and valuable ecosystems on earth. They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. However, due to climate change, only about 46% of the world’s coral were considered healthy in 2008 and this percentage has dropped further recently. In many parts of the world, coral reefs are rapidly declining with global warming, acidification, overfishing, pollution, dredging and more. On one hand, satellite imagery does not suffice to understand the health of corals, and on the other hand sending human divers is expensive, slow and dangerous.
Mindorobots solves one of the most critical issues with coral conservation – reef mapping. As of now, Reef mapping is done by divers moving and photographing a PVC quadrat for every unit area of the reef. The MindoroBot is a robot which can sail, photograph and map reefs autonomously at a low cost with a laser quadrat. The mission is to reduce the cost and increase the quality of data collected during coral reef surveys by using robots instead of human divers so that reefs can be surveyed more efficiently resulting in better conservation.
The robot body is a combination of lightweight & strong acrylic, flexible bamboo & vulcanized rubber. The materials combined with smart design allows it to cruise steadily even in rough seas, with a speed of 9.7 knots. On average the drone can cover an area of 360 sq.m per hour. It can work up to a maximum depth of 5 meters & with very high image quality. The simple yet efficient design allows for easy modification. It costs under 2000USD- A small investment compared to current submersible vehicles & equipment. The robot uploads the photographs into a cloud-based photogrammetry suite where computer vision algorithms transform the multispectral images to 3D maps. Successive maps are then compared across multiple pixels to gauge the extent of bleaching of the reef at different points and different dates.
The James Dyson Award is an annual design engineering competition open to students and recent graduates from 27 countries. More information is available in https://www.jamesdysonaward.org/en-hk/2018/project/mindorobots/
More production processes can be seen in the following clip.