The Eden Project has developed flying robots that could be used for future conservation research in rainforests.
The motorised robots have cameras and detectors, and are attached to helium balloons that travel above the plant canopies to monitor conditions inside the biome greenhouses.
The robots, which are controlled using wireless networks, will be demonstrated to researchers attending The Rainforest Gathering Conference at the Cornwall site in September.
'The robots are a means of getting images and recordings from above the canopy, which could really help in terms of research and conservation,' said Howard Jones, organisation development director at the Eden Project.
The tourist attraction is also working with BT and Cisco to extend its converged IP network installed two years ago (Computing, 4 June 2003) into its new educational centre, The Core, which will be completed in two months' time.
The centre will provide schoolchildren with a multimedia learning environment, where they can find out about how humans interact with ecosystems, and the use of plants in medical science.
'Eden has on average 150 schoolchildren a day attending on organised school visits,' said Jones. 'We are the most important destination for school trips for the National Curriculum in terms of environmental and sustainability learning.'
The converged voice and data network will also enable children to talk to counterparts around the world using web conferencing on more than 30 computers.
'Multimedia technology can help bring this to life for the children. The new centre is going to be a major, major leap forward for us,' said Jones.
The Project has also worked with BT and Cisco to upgrade its electronic tills systems at entrance points and in restaurants and shops. Chip-and-PIN technology has been installed to combat payment card fraud.
'Having handled six million visitors in the past four years the systems were getting a bit worn,' said Jones. 'We soon hope to develop wireless networks, which will allow us to introduce wireless handheld devices in our restaurants and retail outlets.'