Swarms of caretaker robots will soon buzz around the damaged coral reefs of Scotland, re-cementing broken sections with utmost precision. Researchers at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University are programming autonomous underwater vehicles to follow a set of simple rules, like bees in a swarm, to keep corals healthy.
Though they may not host tropical fish, the waters off the west coast of Scotland are full of reef-forming corals, which are crucial for providing habitat for fish and sharks as well as seeding coral offspring all the way to the Arctic. Like tropical corals, Scottish corals are threatened by fishing activities, which can damage or kill large sections of the reefs. Corals can take years or even decades to recover from damage.Volunteer scuba divers try to help matters by reassembling coral communities on a reef’s existing framework. But flippered humans can only dive so deep and do so much.