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Swimming robot hunts overpopulated jellyfish and shreds them

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There's a new, deadly predator in the sea, but swimmers need not be worried: it's a man-made tool designed to hunt down jellyfish. As jellyfish populations explode due to warming waters and overfishing, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have worked to combat them by developing an unmanned robot that can patrol the seas and destroy nearly 2000 pounds worth of the creature each hour. The robot is designed to work in swarms, and KAIST says that the robot has now finished its field tests after beginning development in 2009.

2000 pounds of jellyfish can be chopped up each hour

KAIST is calling it the Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm — or JEROS, for short. JEROS floats at the surface of the water, and uses a camera and GPS system to help it know where to swim around to. When it detects a swarm of jellyfish, JEROS catches them in a net and then sucks them into a propeller, which rips them apart. When working in swarms, only one robot will calculate where to move toward — the others will follow in a formation around it, communicating their positions wirelessly. KAIST doesn't detail the robot's top speed, but it notes that researchers have conducted tests with them traveling at nearly seven miles per hour.

While KAIST had hoped that the technology would be ready this past April, it appears more work was required, during which time it says that the robot's performance and speed has been improved. It aims to sell the robot eventually, which it believes will be three times more cost effective than manual extraction of jellyfish in places where it's necessary to deal with their overpopulation. KAIST says that jellyfish attacks around the southwest coast of Korea alone have caused $279 million worth of damage and even deaths. Overpopulation of jellyfish even led to a nuclear power plant being forced to shut down one of its reactors last weekend.

KAIST says that the next step is to improve JEROS for use in different environmental conditions. But chopping up jellyfish may not be its entire future: the researchers also suggest that a version of JEROS could be used for simple observation of marine life, for helping to prevent oil spills, and for remove waste from the sea as well.