Robots Roam Where Humans Can’t Go in Brazil’s Amazon

In an area of approximately 370 square kilometers (143 square miles) of Amazon rain forest and in the midst of communities that in many cases lack even electricity, five robots help gather data on the region, facilitating decisions and data analysis on one of the world’s most sophisticated and wide-ranging ecosystems.

The robots are part of the Cognitus Project (Cognitive Tool for the Amazon), one of the three components of the Piatam Project (Potential Impacts and Environmental Risks of the Petroleum and Gas Industry in the Amazon), developed together by the Federal University of Amazonas and Petrobras.

The robots are on display during the four days of the 1st International Piatam Congress, taking place in Manaus between December 11 and 15.

The Cognitus Project is coordinated by Fernando Pellon de Miranda, a geologist who does research at the Petrobras Studies Center (Cenpes), and José Wagner Garcia, a scientist. They propose to establish a new parameter of scientific production by reconstituting the general bases of these activities.

One of their biggest challenges is to perform a detailed study of the historical sequence of variations in the hydrological cycle of the Negro and Solimões Rivers – whose levels rise and fall as much as 14 meters between dry and rainy seasons.

In addition, they will be able to indicate what ecosystems need to be protected in case of accidents involving oil spills.

The Hybrid Environmental Robot is also on display at the Congress. "Equipped with a combination of mechanical, electrical, computational, and communication systems, the Hybrid Environmental Robot will be a forward unit for men in areas of the Amazon Rain Forest that are still inaccessible to human presence," affirms Garcia.

Similar to a remote-controlled toy car, the robot was tested in the Solimões River and succeeded in crossing the current and the mangrove swamps, among other obstacles. Ten robots are expected to be in operation by the end of 2006.

Adopting a novel form of observing natural processes and conceiving of nature as a thinking being capable of leading scientists to the most varied kinds of knowledge, Cognitus gathers biochemists, biologists, physicists, artists, philosophers, geologists, and engineers "in a cross-disciplinary effort that reaches the interfaces between science, art, and technology," those who are responsible for the project believe.

Agência Brasil

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