GO GET 'EM:  Matthew Dunbabin launching RangerBot. It will  identify and inject crown of thorns starfish and monitor coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
GO GET 'EM: Matthew Dunbabin launching RangerBot. It will identify and inject crown of thorns starfish and monitor coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. QUT

RangerBot to the rescue for reef

AN UNDERWATER drone could revolutionise the way scientists look after the Great Barrier Reef.

The RangerBot, launched in Townsville on Friday, uses a hi-tech vision system to see underwater and will be used for tasks including identifying and injecting the crown-of-thorns starfish and monitoring coral bleaching.

RangerBot is the low-cost, autonomous robot concept that won the 2016 Google Impact Challenge People's Choice prize.

QUT's Matthew Dunbabin said after almost two years of research and testing, the 15kg RangerBot could now get into action controlled by a tablet.

"We've been doing things with underwater drones but looking at one that is small enough to do a range of things is pretty incredible," Professor Dunbabin said.

Australian Institute of Marine Science took part in trials using the RangerBot on the Great Barrier Reef.

Prof Dunbabin said it monitored a range of issues facing coral reefs, from bleaching to water quality and pollution.

"It can help to map expansive underwater areas at scales not previously possible, making it a valuable tool for reef research.

"It can stay under water almost three times longer than a human diver, gather more data, and operate in all conditions and at all times of the day or night, including where it may not be safe for a human diver."