Can a Floating Robot Save a Polluted Canal?

Pity the Gowanus Canal. A forgotten relic of Brooklyn's industrial past, the garbage-choked waterway is now home to a putrid stew of toxic waste.

Where barges once served tanneries and paper mills, all that remains today are high levels of mercury, lead, raw sewage, cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other pollutants.

The Gowanus Canal achieved further notoriety in January 2013 when an adult dolphin chose the canal's oily waters as a place to die. A necropsy revealed the dolphin had numerous pre-existing ailments, but the event did nothing to enhance the canal's reputation.

Help for the beleaguered canal, however, has arrived in an unusual form: a floating robot.

The Brooklyn Atlantis project, spearheaded by Oded Nov, assistant professor at the department of technology management and innovation at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has created an aquatic robotic vehicle (ARV) that collects environmental data on the Gowanus Canal.

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