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October 4, 2013

Robots battle jellyfish

Hunter-killer waterborne mechs in the fight against slimy swarms.

By Ben Sullivan

Korean researchers are developing seafaring robots that can shred jellyfish, which have interfered with nuclear power plants around the world.

Earlier this week, one of the world’s largest nuclear reactors in Sweden was disable by swarms of jellyfish clogging up the extractor fans going into the sea.

The jellies have since been removed from the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in Sweden, but the threat remains. Korean scientists reckon the answer is a team of hunter-killer robots that take out the jellyfish. They’ve built prototypes that shred the gentle creatures at the rate of one tonne an hour!

Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm robots, or JEROS, have been successfully field tested, according to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

Developed by KAIST Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s Hyeon Myeong, the JEROS bots are basically floating shredders.

They have underwater propellers that chop up the jellies, which have no means of escape.
But what makes them more than just meat grinders is the fact they can work in formation "as a cooperative group to efficiently exterminate jellyfish," KAIST says.

Equipped with motorized floats for propulsion, JEROS bots use GPS to automatically navigate to designated jellyfish areas. They communicate with each other to maintain the course, so there’s no need for human oversight.

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Once there, they have above-water cameras that can automatically detect jellyfish before the propellers get busy.

The tests show that three robots operating at a speed of 4 knots (4.6 mph) can clear about 1,984 pounds of jellyfish per hour.

"JEROS uses its propulsion speed to capture jellyfish into the grinding part on the bottom, which then suctions the jellyfish toward the propeller to be exterminated," according to KAIST.

"JEROS may also be utilized for other purposes including marine patrols, prevention of oil spills and waste removal in the sea."

Here’s a video of the robots in action. Caution, graphic content.

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