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Robotic systems are increasingly being utilized as fundamental data-gathering tools by scientists, allowing new perspectives and a greater understanding of the planet and its environmental processes. Today's robots are already exploring our deep oceans, tracking harmful algal blooms and pollution spread, monitoring climate variables, and even studying remote volcanoes. This article collates and discusses the significant advancements and applications of marine, terrestrial, and airborne robotic systems developed for environmental monitoring during the last two decades. Emerging research trends for achieving large-scale environmental monitoring are also reviewed, including cooperative robotic teams, robot and wireless sensor network (WSN) interaction, adaptive sampling and model-aided path planning. These trends offer efficient and precise measurement of environmental processes at unprecedented scales that will push the frontiers of robotic and natural sciences.
Date of Publication: March 2012