Develop capacity and capability to monitor coastal marine environments for sustainable development in Penang Island

The aim of this project was to develop capacity and capability to monitor coastal marine environments for sustainable development in Penang Island. At the University of Plymouth, we focused on developing and testing various autonomous sailboat platforms during the summer months of the project, while similar platforms were also developed and tested in Penang, Malaysia.

Professor Mohd Rizal Arshad from Universiti Sains Malaysia visited the University of Plymouth, while Dr Louise Firth visited Universiti Sains Malaysia in order to plan the research activities. It was agreed that the focus of the project would be on coastal water quality monitoring using autonomous sailboats.

Building on the current project and the intention of closer collaboration between the two parties, a memorandum of understanding between Universiti Sains Malaysia and the University of Plymouth has been signed to formalize the partnership in a wider perspective. The collaborators from Malaysia aim to make full use of the signed MoU to attract more government support for such collaborations in the future.


Currently the autonomous sailboat for carrying the measurement sensors has been tested in the Roadford Lake here in Devon and at sea. The boat has also won a 2nd prize for the 12th World Robotic Sailing Championship held at Ningbo, China during 25–30 August 2019. A similar sailboat was also developed and tested at Universiti Sains Malaysia. The next step is to fit the corresponding sensors for water quality measurements onto the sailboat and to conduct data collection for the following ecological studies in Penang Island, Malaysia. 

Benefits and impacts of the project

  • x A greater awareness of the need for sustainable development in Penang Island and what existing technologies can contribute to the situation there.
  • ~ Laying the groundwork for a future feasible case study of monitoring coastal environments in Penang Island, using the latest technologies.
  • 3 We now understand that the target for sustainable development is possible, along with the development of technologies and the support of favourable policies and resources.
  • 1 Raised awareness of the need for sustainable development of coastal resources.
  • } Beginning to develop the capacity and capability to deal with sustainable development issues, which could then influence government policy, research focus and the daily actions of the general public.