Monitoring water quality is essential in this day in age, especially when you consider what happened in Toledo, Ohio, where a slug of toxins proved that the great Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse a month at a time. The contaminated water led to a loss of drinking water for a half-million residents thanks to thick mats of algae, much of which probably could have been detected years ago is Marin Kobilarov's pollution-hunting underwater robots had been around.
An assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering, Kobilarov was a part of a team of scientists responsible for designing robots capable of keeping tabs on pollutants, water temperature, blue-green algae, oxygen and just about everything in between. Fit with cameras, propellers environmental sensors and wireless routers, Kobilarov's robots has been scouring through the ocean blue since 2013.
"The key is having robots steer themselves and discover interesting data," said Kobilarov, who has specifically been tasked with developing computer algorithms that help guide the smart subs, hands-free.
It's Kobilarov's work that will help collect underwater data over the course of the next four years. Thanks to his invention, scientists will now be able to build computer models of water quality in space and time alike.
Kobilarov is also director of the Autonomous Systems, Control and Optimization Laboratory, which is a part of the Laboratory for computational Sensing and Robotics at Johns Hopkins. Those involved in the lab are on a mission to develop intelligent robotic details that can accomplish challenging tasks in highly constrained environments. The lab "performs research in analytical and computational methods for mechanics, control, motion planning, and reasoning under uncertainty, and in the design and integration of novel mechanisms and embedded systems," all data that apply to Kobilarov's water quality robotic work.