Posted in: SERVO Blog (08/26 at 12:38 PM)

Robots swim with the fishes

Borrowing from Mother Nature, a team of MIT researchers has built a school of swimming robo-fish that slip through the water just as gracefully as the real thing, if not quite as fast.

Mechanical engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado have designed the sleek robotic fish to more easily maneuver into areas where traditional underwater autonomous vehicles can’t go. Fleets of the new robots could be used to inspect submerged structures such as boats and oil and gas pipes; patrol ports, lakes and rivers; and help detect environmental pollutants.

“Given the (robotic) fish’s robustness, it would be ideal as a long-term sensing and exploration unit. Several of these could be deployed, and even if only a small percentage make it back there wouldn’t be a terrible capital loss due to their low cost,” says Valdivia Y Alvarado, a recent MIT PhD recipient in mechanical engineering.

Robotic fish are not new: In 1994, MIT ocean engineers demonstrated Robotuna, a four-foot-long robotic fish. But while Robotuna had 2,843 parts controlled by six motors, the new robotic fish, each less than a foot long, are powered by a single motor and are made of fewer than 10 individual components, including a flexible, compliant body that houses all components and protects them from the environment. The motor, placed in the fish’s midsection, initiates a wave that travels along the fish’s flexible body, propelling it forward.

Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado, a research affiliate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, works in his lab on a robotic fish he created with Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi. The robot is designed to more easily maneuver into areas where traditional underwater autonomous vehicles cannot go.

[Source] MIT News