The US Navy is set to introduce an autonomous hull-grooming robot, the bio-inspired underwater grooming tool (BUG) to clean the hulls of navy ships.

The BUG moves around the underwater portion of a ship’s hull with an onboard biofilm detector that senses and removes marine biofilm and organisms, including barnacles, oysters and algae.

The tool is being heralded as a major fuel saver as it could take over from the shipping boats that currently spend a lot of time in the water cleaning boats, hull maintenace is estimated to cost the US Navy in the region of $500m each year.

BUG has been successful in field tests with navy sailors and is about to be launched for the navy as well as for commercial shipping.

SeaRobotics president Don Darling said that basically any boat over 45ft, which is in the water all the time, can benefit from this kind of technology.