OffBeat

These robo-boats are studying the poo-filled Mara River disguised as crocodiles

Talk about disruptive technology!

CMU researchers took their floating robots, which are designed to look like river crocodiles, to Kenya’s Mara River Basin recently in an effort to study the effects of feces — yes feces –and its effects on the water table crocodiles and hippos call home.

Researchers said an estimated 4,000 hippos, which statistically kill more people every year in Africa than their croc friends do, use the Mara River as their personal toilet. Carnegie Mellon University’s well regarded Robotics Institute designed its floating robotic boats at the suggestion of a local African guide.

Team members said the robot boats were “generally tolerated” by their hippo and crocodile hosts, save one of the latter.

According to  CMU associate research professor Paul Scerri, who dodged an enraged two-ton hippo that took umbrage at the presence of robot boats dressed like crocs and briefly gave chase to the research team, “Those were 30 seconds that none of us will forget.”

The research teams included members from Yale University and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. According to a CMU release, the team has been studying water quality on the river for the last six years.

Data from the study is still being compiled.

Project researchers put it this way:

“Floating Robots Venture Over Brown Pools Where Humans Dare Not Go.”