PORTLAND, Ore. — A $5 million self-powered autonomous robotic fish designed by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Vir.) for the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research, will perform underwater surveillance, map ocean floors, track currents, study aquatic life and monitor environmental pollutants.
The five-foot seven-inch long, 170-pound jellyfish-like robot called Cyro--named after the jellyfish Cyanea capillata--moves with grace in the water as seen on a video released by Virginia Tech. Other universities involved in the project include the Providence College (Rhode Island), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Texas (Dallas) and Stanford University (California).
Virginia Tech's Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems tests a jellyfish-like robot
in its pool at
War Memorial Hall.
SOURCE: Virginia Tech
Powered by rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries driving direct-current motors, the prototype is several years away from deployment partially because its final specification will require autonomous operation for months at a time, necessitating experiments with alternative power sources, including hydrogen. Data collected by Cyro will be stored on-board as well as communicated wirelessly when the robo-fish surfaces.
As a last resort, perhaps the device can float to the surface and recharge using solar cells on the body. Considering the cost, serious consideration must be given as to how to avoid collisions with motorized vessels. I hope a solid program is also in place to ensure it doesn't attract unwanted attention from underwater predators - especially since it generates electrical fields.
I once caught a marlin in Mexico. When I read this story, I couldn't help but think of the possibility of someone snagging this thing--what a catch, and even a better fish story.
Yes, I know it will be used much deeper than would be accessible--but still the imagination wanders....
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