A McGill University program working on the development of amphibious robots has received a major financial boost from the federal government.

Today, the winners of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada's (NSERC) Strategic Network Grant (SNG) were announced at the Montreal university.

A $5-million grant was awarded to the robotics program at McGill led by computer science professor Gregory Dudek.

Dudek's Canadian Field Robotics Network is working on developing robots that could some day help save lives.

The hope is that the robots — which can fly, crawl over snow and ice and swim under water — will help in situations where harsh conditions are too dangerous or costly for humans.

What can these robots do?

  • Mining and resource identification.
  • Coastline monitoring.
  • Planetary exploration.
  • Pipeline monitoring.
  • Border surveillance.
  • Search and rescue.
  • Environmental disaster management.

"The opportunity to improve the quality of life or save lives, by combining this kind of technology, to send robots into areas you might not want to send a human being, is just limitless," said Gary Goodyear, Canada's minister of state for science and technology.

In particular, the federal government is hoping the robots will be able to monitor icebergs along Canada's coastlines, which pose a real threat to underwater cables as well as ships.

With the help of the grant, the program plans to fine-tune the robots to monitor Canada's various environments.