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The March of the Penguins Has a New Star: An Autonomous Robot


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A test drive by unmanned ground vehicle ECHO near an Emperor penguin colony in Antarctica.

Credit: Aymeric Houstin/FAU Erlangen

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Marine Animal Remote Sensing Lab built a ground vehicle that may be operated in autonomous or remote-controlled modes to study hundreds of Emperor penguins in Antarctica.

The robot, called ECHO, is part of MARE, an international, multidisciplinary research program that will track the population dynamics of the penguins, and how they cope with climate change over the next 30 years, to learn about the health of the entire Southern Ocean ecosystem.

ECHO features LiDAR, a 360-degree camera, and an antenna that communicates with the antennas on each tagged penguin's Passive Integrated Transponder and Radio-Frequency Identification system tag to identify them.

Said the lab's Daniel P. Zitterbart, "The amount of data we can gather through ECHO is something we would never be able to achieve with any other method in this place."

From Popular Science
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