The team says the new technology can reduce the time it takes to detect a pollutant from weeks to seconds, clean up oil spills, and boost underwater security, diver monitoring or search and rescue at sea.
The 1.5 meter-long fish currently cost USD 31,600 each and is designed to swim like real fish. Its sensors are also designed to pick up pollutants leaking from ships or undersea pipelines.
If sent in groups they can swim independently, co-ordinate with each other, and transmit their readings back to a shore station up to a kilometer away.
“Chemical sensors fitted to the fish permit real-time, in-situ analysis, rather than the current method of sample collection and dispatch to a shore based laboratory,” said Luke Speller of the British consultancy BMT Group.
The robot fish can avoid obstacles, communicate with each other and map their location. They also know how to return to base when their eight-hour battery is running low.