Robot boat can save lives during disasters

A FLOTILLA of robot boats could save lives during catastrophes.

Queensland University of Technology experts have created a watercraft that monitors the effects of major weather events and provides early warning on potential environmental disasters.

Equipped with cameras and air and water sensors, the boats allow researchers to collect real-time data about the impacts of weather events across waterways.

The data can then be used to help authorities better plan for similar events.

Boat creator Dr Matthew Dunbabin said the autonomous vessels would speed up the detection and responses to major events such as cyclones.

"The boats are designed to be our eyes, ears and nose on waterways, 24 hours a day - rain, hail or cyclone," Dr Dunbabin said.

"As you can imagine, it's far too dangerous for a human to be out in a boat during a cyclone, collecting water samples to measure the amount of topsoil washing into a lake, for instance.

"Traditionally, scientists the world over have had to rely on simulated and sparse data to predict, respond to and plan for events like these - data that isn't always dead accurate."

Dr Dunbabin has also built a ground-based robot that uses sensors to map and count trees and other vegetation and he is developing another that can follow and record wildlife using stealth tactics such as only moving while there are other sounds to mask its own noise.


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