Intern Matthew Elphinstone and Jack Copper, of NeuralStudio, show off their ‘proof of concept’ lionfish identification device.

Artificial intelligence could be the latest weapon in the fight against invasive lionfish on Cayman’s reefs.

Enterprise City based AI firm NeuralStudio is working on the technology for a hunter drone that could eventually be used to seek out and catch lionfish.

The idea came from Caymanian intern Matthew Elphinstone, who worked with the company in the “summer in the city” internship program.

With the help of Jack Copper, managing director of NeuralStudio, the mechanical engineering student developed a neural network that can identify lionfish.

Mr. Copper said the company specializes in sophisticated software, known as neural networks, that can learn from data.

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“The neural network doesn’t care what the data is,” he added.

By feeding images of lionfish and other species through the software, the pair were able to create a specific neural network that was able to identify lionfish.

Using a miniature credit-card sized computer, known as a Raspberry Pi, rigged up to a camera and housed inside a waterproof dive bag, Mr. Elphinstone was able to field test the network on Cayman’s reefs.

“I took pictures of various fish and it was able to display whether it was a lionfish or not, using LED lights.”

Lionfish are an invasive species whose population has exploded in local and regional waters over the past decade.

He said the device was able to detect lionfish with 99.9 percent accuracy. The next step will be to develop the hardware to allow it to operate autonomously.

Mr. Elphinstone, who is studying at Queens University in Canada, plans to return to NeuralStudio this summer, where he hopes to advance the project further.

He said the brain of the device had been developed and there were numerous possibilities for its application. He said they would have to decide whether to try to develop a “search and destroy” drone that could independently hunt lionfish or a more passive tool that could aid cullers.

“Those are going to be the big questions over the next couple of months. Hopefully, we can develop it enough to take to market.”

Mr. Copper said he was looking forward to working on it further.

“We have a proof of concept,” he said. “We need to do some more training for the neural network and put some thought into the real world application, which could mean some type of trap.”

Cayman Enterprise City’s “Summer in the City” internship program is open to Caymanians and residents of the Cayman Islands between the ages of 18-25 and lasts for one to two months during the summer. Every year, CEC places young people in internships throughout Cayman’s three special economic zones: Cayman Tech City, Cayman Maritime and Aviation City, and Cayman Commodities and Derivatives City.

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