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The lionfish-killing robots and electric cars driving sustainability

Earth Day 2017 was preceded by a good week for Bermuda, environmentally, from the impending import of a small fleet of four-wheeled electric vehicles, and a new scheme to cull lionfish. Both send very positive signals for the island's environmental health and to the global community that Bermuda is actively working to become a leader in environmental concerns.

The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club has received 25 of the electric minicars, which will be available for rent to tourists imminently. Not only will this enhance the visitor experience, but the introduction of a fleet of electric cars is a very positive step forward environmentally.

The reason? These cars are emission-free during use, and are fitted with a lithium-ion battery, which can be recycled at the end of its life. Seeing these cars on our roads may encourage residents to opt for the electric or hybrid option when purchasing new vehicles. There is no reason why these should not also comprise the Government's vehicle fleet.

The lionfish is proving to be a problematic new resident introduction to Bermuda's waters. Culling efforts already under way, such as the “Eat it to Beat it” campaign, bring awareness and some control, and have introduced them to our dinner plates. But lionfish have no known predators, can produce up to two million eggs per year, have an indiscriminate appetite and range from shallow to deep waters.

The new robotic system is a welcome addition, and the best anti-lionfish array we have seen. These robots reach depths inconvenient for humans, take advantage of the fish's fearlessness, and hopefully will bring a regular supply of fish to our restaurants. It is another welcome and important weapon in the arsenal to limit the lionfish invasion.

There are a lot of steps involved in operating the current incarnation of marine robot. Two operators are needed to guide, position, stun and suction one lionfish at a time and, at least with the prototype, unload after collecting ten fish. The novelty for the robot operators may well wear off quickly. The complex system probably has a steep learning curve, strict maintenance regime, and high repair and replacement costs. These points signal anything but smooth sailing or quick-fix. But it is heartening to see so many friends of Bermuda who have brought together a staggering assortment of skills and resources for the launch of this prototype.

Just think of what it takes to bring schemes such as this to fruition: robotic design, marine galvanic technology, creative systemic solutions, cutting-edge materials, patience, imagination, start-up funding, sustaining finance, funding for design, parts, experiment and sustenance for the dozens of innovators who envision, contract, test, review and retest, and then start all over again, and again.

BEST applauds the dreamers and pragmatists, the teams of scientists and engineers who have to be paid, the bands of unpaid volunteers who still have to eat, and the philanthropists whose generosity shines through. All this pulls us humans out of yet another of the pitfalls we construct for ourselves.

Thanks also to the elected, appointed and career members of the Government who have paved the regulatory pathway for both the electric cars and the robotic lionfishing machine.

These two innovations are the culmination of extraordinary efforts that should have extraordinary results. We are not surprised that these revolutionary schemes have occurred at Ariel Sands (marine robots) and at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club (electric cars) — locales of Bermuda's good friends, Michael Douglas, and Alexander and Andrew Green.

Events such as these stretch Earth Day's reach into the future.

Stuart Hayward is the president of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce

Enemy beneath: the lionfish is proving to be a problematic new resident in Bermuda's waters

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Published May 09, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 09, 2017 at 8:37 am)

The lionfish-killing robots and electric cars driving sustainability

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