“Maybe they could help”
Author: Pratibha Ambesinge
Climate change, while having an obvious and brutal impact on our atmosphere, effects our oceans with an even greater magnitude. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and ecosystem reform are just three of the issues taking our oceans by storm.
Until now, scientists have been limited to expensive, stationary machines that stay at sea for short periods of only a few months at a time to take samples and relay data. Now a new horizon has opened up, bridging the areas of sea exploration and robotics with environmental activism.
Using cameras and sensors to navigate their environment, the SnoMotes will be able to work as an autonomous team without the use of remote control. Once released from a selected base camp, the robots will collaborate to ensure that the selected research area is well covered and can venture into areas that are unsafe for humans.
Two navigation systems are being developed. The first enables the robots “bid” on a desired location based on their proximity to the location and taking into consideration how well their instruments are working. The second involves the use of a mathematical “net” that can be applied to particular research areas.
Three prototypes have so far been created to prove mobility (which is a big challenge in white-out conditions) and communications capabilities, with a full range of sensors to be added at a later date. There are also plans for larger rovers.
“In order to say with certainty how climate change affects the world’s ice, scientists need accurate data points to validate their climate models,” said Ayanna Howard, lead on the project and an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Our goal was to create rovers that could gather more accurate data to help scientists create better climate models. It’s definitely science-driven robotics.”
Robotics is already a multi-billion dollar industry with its core in manufacturing automation. The market for personal robots that can perform domestic tasks such as cleaning, vacuuming, and mowing is already significant. Yet this is only the beginning of the robotics revolution. Robotic driving and flying will transform transportation, reducing energy costs. Efficient walking robots that can perceive and manipulate will bring robots into homes, hospitals, and retail environments, where they will assist the elderly and the handicapped. Robots that function in environments inaccessible to humans by swimming through coral reefs or hovering above a rain forest canopy can yield powerful insights for scientists studying phenomena such as climate change.
An ROV, as many of you may already know, is a remotely operated vehicle, most commonly in use underwater. In the past, these machines have been used for exploration and discovery by large organizations with deep pockets.
Deep water ROVs (with costs in the hundreds of thousands) are responsible for the discovery of the RMS Titanic and other lost vessels.
Now that start-ups from around the country have made certain ROV components available to the private sector for lower rates, the technology of underwater vehicles is starting to become popular.
Can Technology Reverse Climate Change?
Do you believe that climate change is a vast left-wing conspiracy that does little more than create jobs for scientists while crippling businesses with pointless regulation? Or, quite the contrary, are you convinced that climate change is the biggest crisis confronting the planet, uniquely capable of wreaking havoc on a scale not seen in recorded history?
Many of you are probably in one camp or the other. No doubt some of you will tell us how disappointed/angry/outraged you are that we (a) gave credence to this nonsense or (b) failed to convey the true urgency of the situation.
The Role of Technology in Climate Change
Avoiding the impact of climate change simply means reducing the emission of green house gases. Climate change solutions lie in technological innovations and creativity in response to the effects of climate change. Across the years it has been evident policy development and change around climate change has been full of controversy. A look at the situation in different countries this is quite evident. A prominent example being the very unclear stand of the United States on the Climate Change agenda. That not with standing various countries have committed to the climate change agenda and in different ways supporting the adaptation and mitigation strategies. One way of addressing climate change as mentioned is through innovative technological solutions. The true threat of climate change is the effect this has on Sustainable Development the adverse effects are felt by the poor and future generations.
Robots Solve Climate Problem
The two biggest societal challenges for the twenty-first century are also the biggest opportunities – automation and climate change. The confluence of these forces of mankind and nature intersect beautifully in the alternative energy market. The epitaph of fossil fuels with its dark cloud burning a hole in the ozone layer is giving way to a rise of solar and wind farms worldwide. Servicing these plantations are fleets of robots and drones, providing greater possibilities of expanding CleanTech to the most remote regions of the planet.
Drone companies are also entering the maintenance space. Upstart aerial power claims to have designed a “SolarBrush” quadcopter that cleans panels. The solar-powered drone professes to reduce 60% of a solar farm’s operational costs. Solar Brush also promises an 80% savings over existing solutions like Ecoppia since there are no installation costs. However, Aerial Power has yet to fly its product in the field as it is still in development. SolarPower is selling its own drone survey platform to assess development sites and oversee field operations.
Drones today serve a variety of functions, from capturing aerial photography to assisting in military operations. But one particular service may end up being their chief contribution: by acting as mitigating forces against the impacts of climate change. These little gadgets are now capable of everything from fighting dwindling bee populations and reducing carbon emissions to tracking changes in wildlife population and gathering water samples.
On a solar farm, workers typically do inspections by slowly making their way through the field of solar panels. To inspect a wind turbine, for example, a worker must climb to the top of a tower and then dangle by wire, a time-consuming and potentially dangerous task. Drones could also help to inspect the vast network of transmissions lines our electrical grid depends on.
Climate change is a problem impacting every part of our world, including the creatures that live in it. To understand the impacts of climate change and mitigate them, we need to go to places that are hard to access — something drones excel at. Whether they’re in the air or underwater, drones may be a vital tool in finding solutions to the many challenges of climate change.
Tags: Robotics, Climate change, Technology, Robots, AI, Machine Learning, Tech, Automation, Education