News Stories

Robot Fish Swimming in Our Seas

Drones are all around us, in the sky (and now) in the water too. The next time you go fishing, you may pull out a robot, because the Department of Homeland is developing an unmanned underwater vehicle that looks like a tuna fish. In the past, the joke was that a fisherman might pull up a boot--now he's more likely to reel in a robot.

Smaller or larger versions of fish robots could swim effortlessly through the oceans as they run US military reconnaissance missions or conduct scientific surveys.

Mike Rufo, CEO of the company that is developing one of the fish, called a BIOSwimmer, says, "It's designed to support a variety of tactical missions and with its interchangeable sensor payloads and reconfigurable Operator Controls, and can be optimized on a per-mission basis."

Meanwhile, other researchers are developing a robot fish that looks more like a manta ray. The "Mantabot" could lead to bigger or smaller underwater drones capable of carrying equipment for military or commercial purposes. It could also help monitor water conditions and marine life, or even investigate oil spills or track ocean pollutants.

These "bots" can flap their wing-like fins nearly silently, as they swim or glide through the water. Manta rays can accelerate or hold their positions while using relatively little energy, an inspiration for making underwater drones that can stay out at sea for long periods without refueling or recharging.

Biologically inspired robotics (biomimetic robotry) is a fairly new science that is gaining steam. There are now robotic lobsters, flies, geckos, moths, clams, dogs, and even a lamprey-like robot, all being designed to perform a variety of missions including surveillance and search and rescue. Robotics based on sinuous snakes and elephant trunks, for example, may be the ideal way to search for survivors inside the rubble of structures destroyed by explosions or natural disasters.

As the numbers of "real" fish become smaller and smaller, will our waterways be filled with robots instead? The possibility of military robots becoming shark food has not stopped the Office of Naval Research from funding other naturally-shaped underwater drones, such as robot jellyfish.

Something's fishy, and it's not just robots, it's the total LACK of talk about climate change among the candidates in the upcoming Presidential election! That's why we keep reminding all our readers that this is something that is really going on and we have to DO something about it! MOTKE warned us, but we didn't listen. Actually, Whitley listened, and tried to warn the rest of us.



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