Robots Vs. Jellyfish

Sea_Nettle_Jelly_1Jellies are on a world-wide rise: we’ve made the mess, now it’s time to clean it up!

They may be found in swarms of marvelous colours, or floating solitary like transparent pieces of blown glass. From waters East to West, and North to South the jellyfish knows little boundary regarding where it can call home and today, their claiming their territory in numbers never-before-seen.

The very-jelly outbreak has been the source of much frustration for the fishing industry. High numbers of jellies means that fishery resources can’t be easily renewed since a jelly’s preferred feast includes large amounts of larval fish.

So what’s caused the jelly infestation that has people around the world up in arms? Well, ironically, we have. By over-fishing massive quantities of  small, open-ocean fish such as sardines and anchovies, we’ve unintentionally killed off the jelly’s main competitor for access to one of it’s major food sources — zooplankton. Furthermore, over-fishing has also caused the diminution of natural jelly predators like the tuna and sea turtle.

A recent study performed by the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement looked at two ecosystems belonging to the same ocean current off the coast of Namibia. One population resides in a tightly restricted fishing zone, where the number of jellies have remained stable for the past 60 years. In the other—heavily-exploited zone— Jellyfish have started proliferating to high extremes.JEROS_Robot

So what can we do to stop the vicious cycle we’ve started?(unfortunately holding the anchovies on your next pizza just won’t cut it). Call in the jelly-fighting robots! The JEROS robot has been developed by the Korea Institute of Advanced Technology (KAIST) to help manage jelly fish populations.


Donghoon Kim et al. Experimental Tests of Autonomous Jellyfish Removal Robot System JEROS. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Volume 208, 2013, pp 395-403

Robots piloting their skills in South Korea’s Gyeongnam Masan Bay carry out these simple steps: first they detect the jellies using a camera and a special algorithm. Once targets have been identified, the robots — operating as a team, much like real ocean predators — suck the jellyfish upwards into a grid of thin wires which can destruct about 900 kg of jellyfish per hour. While these bots have currently only been tested for their jelly-fighting capabilities, researchers are keen to explore how they might be able to help us out in trying to solve other human-induced problems like: oil spills and water pollution.

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