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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Technology Update

Air Date: Week of

Cynthia Graber reports on new technology that can help ships avoid crashing into whales.


GRABER: The busy shipping channels of the Atlantic are also home to the endangered northern right whale. And ship collisions present the biggest threat to the 300 or so remaining members of this species. So scientists at the University of Rhode Island have developed a new tool to help ship captains avoid hitting the creatures. (Sonar beep) Most surface vessels now use a single-beam sonar that shoots straight down from a ship. It can tell captains how deep the water is, but it doesn't warn them about objects in the water just ahead. The URI scientists have taken sophisticated and expensive sonar developed to help submarine robots see underwater, and modified and simplified it for use on commercial vessels on top of the seas. It's not as detailed as its military counterpart, but by shooting sonar beams to the left and right and up and down, the device can spot a whale a mile off, in plenty of time for the ship to change course. And that's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.



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