Swimming robot mimics Amazonian fish

New robotic fin design replaces propellers, could change submersible tech

Taking a cue from nature, university researchers have built a swimming robot that is powered by a fin instead of a more boat-like propeller.

Scientists at the University of Bath announced today that they believe their robotic fish, dubbed the Gymnobot , will change the face of submersible technology. The fin, which runs the length of the robot's rigid "fish" body, undulates to make waves in the water and that propels the robot forward or even backward. The fin replaces a traditional propeller which can easily tangle in underwater weeds and generally is considered to be heavy and inefficient.

The new design, which the university noted is inspired by the Amazonian knifefish , is believed to be more efficient and better able to navigate through shallow waters tangled with growth.

"The knifefish has a ventral fin that runs the length of its body and makes a wave in the water that enables it to easily swim backwards or forwards in the water," said William Megill , researcher and lecturer in biomimetics at the university, in a statement. "Gymnobot mimics this fin and creates a wave in the water that drives it forwards. This form of propulsion is potentially much more efficient than a conventional propeller and is easier to control in shallow water near the shore."

Scientists have been increasingly taking a page from nature to build better robots.

Last year, the Sintef Group, a research company based in Trondheim, Norway, announced that it was working on a robot based on snakes . The robots, which are made of aluminum and almost five feet long, are being designed to inspect and clean complicated industrial pipe systems that are typically narrow and inaccessible to humans. The intelligent robots have multiple joints to enable them to twist vertically and climb up through pipe systems to locate leaks in water systems, inspect oil and gas pipelines and clean ventilation systems.

And engineers at BAE Systems Inc. in Nashua, N.H., also announced last year that they were designing miniature robots for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory based on birds and insects . The robots are meant to work as a distributed system -- or swarm -- to gather information and send it back in one unified stream.

As for the swimming robot project at the University of Bath, scientists said it ultimately could end up helping researchers do ecological studies near the shallow shoreline and in fast-flowing rivers, and could be used to do underwater inspections on oil rigs.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags amazonrobotics

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?