It is not know why but the Great Barrier Reefs is always being attacked by hordes of Crown-of-Thorns starfish. Forty per cent of damage to the reef is done by the pest. Robots that can identify starfish and then inject them with a lethal toxin are being used to fight the invasion.
The system works by having a submersible robot patrol about 30cm off the sea floor. When it sees a starfish an arm is extended and the injection is done. If a target is questionable the view is recorded in the robot's data base. A copy of the video is sent to human controllers who verify whether the robot has to return to finish the job.
The robots get the starfish early before they can do any real damage to the reef. After the robots have done what they can, human divers go in to clear up the remaining starfish. This combined protective system will give the reef time to recover.
◆ Science by Ty Buchanan ◆