Robotic fish could help solve problem in Arizona canals

MESA, AZ - SRP is funding a $60,000 research project at ASU to develop robotic fish to cut and clear weeds growing below the surface of Valley canals. 

"We've had vegetation issues in the canal system since the canal started," said SRP environmental specialist Brian Moorhead. 

The utility company currently adds White Amur fish, also known as Grass Carp, to eat sago pondweed that can displace and slow down water flow. 

While the fish are effective, they can't travel through the thousand-plus miles of shallow and narrow lateral canals, Moorhead said.

Arizona State University Assistant Professor Daniel Aukes is leading a team of Ph.D. students on the project. So far, they've built two early prototypes that can adjust how fast the robot's tail moves based on the force around it. 

"I would really imagine a small school of fish where each robot has a different capability," Aukes said. 

Ph.D. student Mohammad Sharifzadeh has been involved from the start. 

"It's highly complex," he said, "But I like the challenge." 

Sharifzadeh said the next step is to test their device in the actual canal and add a cutting mechanism and way for the robotic fish to turn around. 

The study is funded through July. 

Even if their machines never make it into the canals, Aukes said the research could help provide a solution to water problems worldwide. 

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