Agile robots monitor the environment in Italy

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This four-legged robot does not walk around, its mission is to study its environment.

Programmed to inspect plant life, it can determine whether it is healthy or not.

Using sensors and cameras, it can also measure the height and circumference of trees, for example.

After two hours of walking and inspection, it automatically returns to base for a battery swap.

“It can be pre-programmed, but of course it has a certain level of autonomy and it can decide for itself,” explains Manolo Garabini, professor at the University of Pisa and head of the Natural Intelligence project.

“The pre-programmed part is the region in which the robot must carry out the environmental monitoring mission, it has already been decided, so there is a large network of regions in Europe where this monitoring activity must be carried out and inside each location that has already been selected, the robot will have a certain level of autonomy in order to carry out its surveillance mission without supervision.

The team of researchers who set up the “natural intelligence project” at the University of Pisa are convinced that robotic monitoring is useful for effective habitat conservation.

“The conservation status of habitats is mainly assessed by humans, especially human operators who have to go into the environment and check the conservation status of it, and at the moment there are other technologies that allow us to perform similar tasks, but in reality this type of system has the ability to move freely in the environment because it is a leg system so it reproduces the human locomotion system, and in general the system of animal locomotion, so it is very agile and it is also able to walk on really uneven and uneven ground”, explains Franco Angelini, professor at the University of Pisa.

All data received by the Natural Intelligence Project team is forwarded to other departments and botanists for careful consideration. It is then made available to colleagues across Europe.

But it’s not all about flora.

“Another important aspect that needs to be monitored specifically is the possible damage to other species, in this case animals that should not be present in a given habitat and which can damage this given habitat, for example wild boars can ruin the ground, can ruin the soil and prevent the good growth of new small plants, which of course, in the long term, can permanently damage a given habitat”, explains Garabini.

Robots are used both on land and at sea, where access can be even trickier for human scientists.

“I would like to focus on monitoring underwater marine habitats, using these robots that can dive over 1,000 meters deep in order to map the seabed to such an extent that we are able to reconstruct the bottom in a 3D model,” says Maria Siclari, Director General of ISPRA (Institute for Environmental Research and Protection).

ANYmal, after completing its task in San Rossore, near Pisa, will travel to the Italian Alps in a completely different environment, to strive to record more important data.

ISPRA announced today (26 July) that land consumption in Italy has reached an average of two square meters per second, a ten-year high.

In total, Italy lost 1,153 square kilometers of natural habitat between 2006 and 2021.

AP video shot by: Chris Warde-Jones. Some videos provided by the University of Pisa, ISPRA.

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