Smart Underwater Drone Protects Salmon

Create: 05/15/2017 - 17:55
stingray drone IoT agriculture

Photo: Stingray


A new underwater application of IoT drone technology is helping salmon farmers in Scotland and Norway successfully defend their fish, and their profits, from lousy parasites. The farmers are bringing in the big guns, laser-wielding robots that protect the salmon from sea lice. Though very small, the lice can do a great deal of damage, injuring or even killing farmed fish.

With a typical pen containing 50,000 to 150,000 swimming fish inside, what is a relatively harmless problem for wild fish, becomes a real threat to captive ones. The lice attach themselves to the salmon, feeding off their protective external mucus membranes, blood and tissue. In this environment, the sea lice can quickly cause injuries serious enough to compromise the salmon, making it unsuitable to bring to market. These setbacks can be devastating to an industry that reels in approximately $10 billion annually.

Fortunately, laser-armed robots are helping the salmon farmers shoot their way out of the situation. This software-and-camera-controlled underwater drone hero can zero in on individual louses attached to fish, shooting a narrow, deadly laser beam at the parasite while leaving the fish unharmed. This lice-exterminating machine, called the Stingray—made by Stingray­ Marine Solutions—can kill tens of thousands of lice each day with its Optical Delousing™ capabilities.

Laser-wielding Robots at Work

About the size of a heavy punching bag, the Stingray’s watertight aluminum exterior contains a surgical diode laser (the kind used in ophthalmology, dentistry and hair removal) and a processor running image-matching software, along with small thrusters to move it through the water, a winch for a buoy and a 220-volt power source.


Stingray drone salmon industry

Photo: Stingray

The software used to identify the lice is similar to the face-matching technology used on a mobile-phone camera, but much speedier. If the drone registers two matching frames, confirming that it’s pointed at a louse, the laser is triggered. From a distance of up to 2 meters, the 530-nanometer-wavelength beam quickly turns a tiny, dark blue louse into a floating crisp. Thanks to the highly reflective, mirror-like quality of the fishes’ scales, the danger of accidentally targeting it by mistake is extremely remote.

Swimmingly Smart IoT

Designed with IoT technology that makes the Stingray unit mostly autonomous, it boasts custom software that can take temperature, oxygen levels and salinity into account when deciding where to position itself and when to fire its laser beams. The Stingray software system is the only one of its kind, and a pioneer in the robotization and automatization of lice removal in the aquaculture industry.

This IoT-powered, smart optical salmon delousing solution enables the fish farmers to avoid demanding and inexpedient operations, saving labor costs and manual operations expenses, and reducing the number of lost feeding days. And as a result, it’s growing in popularity. First made available for sale in 2014, the Stingray node is now zapping lice at 100 salmon farms in Norway, and it was introduced in Scotland at the end of 2016.

Lean more about how Stingray drones improve animal health in the fishing industry and watch videos of the underwater drone at work. 

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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