Coralbots will be trained to distinguish coral fragments from other objects, such as sponges and other sea creatures, as well as rocks and trash. (Source: Murray Roberts/Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh)
Ann - Have you seen a formal definition yet of "swarming"? There seems to be a number of companies working on this, but where is the line currently being drawin betweens "swarms" and coordinated operation? Is it the fact that the individual members of a swarm have no independant control and the mission is simply given to the "whole" with some type of coordinated artificial intelligence giving commands to the individual?
Yes it is about time we help rather than just destroy, Cadman-LT. I remember seeing the plane that was deliberately crashed for the movie Catch 22 off the shore in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It wasn't intended to become a haven for small fish, but it did.
Chuck and others, the robots would piece together/transplant damaged bits of healthy and living, not dead, coral and re-cement them to the larger structure to help the entire structure regrow. Here's a description from a different project attempting to do something similar via human hands in shallow-, not deep-water, coral reefs: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/coral-transplant/
The idea is to do this before a certain threshold is passed and massive, irreversible damage occurs. In Scottish case, it's probably better described as maintenance than repair.
This is a cool concept and some neat technology, but it does not restore the animals that actually build the reefs other than to give them substrate and structure. This process will not really restore a coral reef, except to create man-made structure to support sea life, and there is already ways to do this cheaper. Yes, they (coral) need substrate to attach to and sea life needs reefs for protection, but if you want some lifeless structure to act as a nursery (much needed in the oceans), then I suggest sinking more de-commissioned ships to give some structure for sea life, certainly a lot cheaper, and proven to attract sea life and create new, large coral reefs relatively fast, and create eco-tourist traffic that boosts local economies. Sunken ships are better, because trawlers will stay away from a sunken ship, allowing the sea life to flourish (only to save their precious equipment). They certainly don't care about coral reefs, and as these robots build up the lifeless reefs, the bottom draggers will come along and continue to destroy them. Additional concern: I would be curious to know how sensitive to any existing coral that are attached to the materials and structure they are creating.