A Roomba For Lionfish — Underwater Robot Vacuum to Suck Up an Invasive Species

A year ago we posted, Invasive Lionfish for Sale at Whole Foods – If You Can’t Beat ’em, Eat ’em, about a new approach to combating lionfish which have been spreading rapidly along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico. Native to the Indo-Pacific, the lionfish lack natural predators and have been laying waste to local fish and shrimp populations. Whole Foods, a high end supermarket, is started to sell lionfish in their stores to consumers as one way to help slow their spread.

Unfortunately, there are more lionfish than there are divers to spear them. Now a foundation, Robots in Service of the Environment (RSE ) has developed an underwater robot to suck up the lionfish, a sort of underwater invasive species Roomba.  If you are not familiar with the Roomba, it is a consumer robot vacuum cleaner. RSE was founded last year by Colin Angle, the CEO for iRobot, the maker of the Roomba. He was visiting friends and marine biologists on Bermuda and they explained how lionfish quickly became king of the Atlantic’s coral reefs. Angle, John Rizzi, and friends decided to take action and the Guardian LF1 robot was born.

The robot uses its metal electrodes around the lionfish to stun but not kill the fish. A thruster positioned in the main tube sucks up the animal into a vacuum chamber, where it can then be carried to the sea surface.  The robot is controlled by a pilot who uses an on-robot camera to viewed on a laptop screen. The robot’s moves underwater using thrusters controlled by a Playstation video game controller.

Designed to cost less than $1000 and dive to a depth of 400 feet, the Guardian LF1 can stun and collect up to ten lionfish before bringing them to the surface.

As reported by PBSIn the end, RSE’s team of 20 engineers — along with a set of marine biologists, web developers and marketing gurus — worked together to create a lionfish-hunting device that can run off a 12-volt battery found on most boats. A camera mounted on the robot allows the pilot to view what the robot sees via a laptop screen, and most can figure out the Playstation piloting system within 30 seconds, Rizzi said. 

RSE hopes to market the robot to commercial fisherman who want to sell lionfish to restaurants, as well as recreational fishers and sailors.

RSE has a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a fleet of Guardian robots — World’s First Eco Robot Protecting Reefs from Lionfish


Help Protect Our Oceans | RSE – Robots in Service of the Environment

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3 Responses to A Roomba For Lionfish — Underwater Robot Vacuum to Suck Up an Invasive Species

  1. Willy says:

    I cant help but wonder how long until PETA steps in to give lionfish an advocates voice.

  2. That is super-cool from a nerd point of view (I love it), but I can’t imagine it costs less to run than diving equipment. And, since it’s not autonomous, it requires a human operator anyway. So, neat but not useful…

  3. I concur with both thoughts the previous commenters have voiced – what a cool concept and one that may be perfected in years to come, but where are the PETA folks defending the lionfish’s right to life?