The device can carefully adjust its body in real time for optimal swimming.
While we’re making plenty of progress in developing bipedal and quadrupedal robots to help us out here on dry land, robotic fish have proven to be a slightly tougher nut to crack. It’s not that hard to make a little plastic thing that can propel itself through the water with a little rotor or something, but that’s hardly a proper fish. Fish can move and twist their bodies in all sorts of ways to properly control their movement through water, and mimicking that requires some seriously precision tech. A group of researchers from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy have made some impressive progress toward that goal, however.
“I have been dreaming of designing a bionic companion since I saw the robotic flying dinosaur created by Prof. Falken in the famous ‘WarGames’ movie as a kid,” Daniele Costa, the lead researcher for the study, told TechXplore. “I have thus been working on biomimetics since my graduation thesis, developing an idea born from the ingenious mind of my colleague and best man, Prof. David Scaradozzi, and later during my Ph.D. with my research group guided by Prof. Massimo Callegari.”
Costa and company’s robotic fish makes use of a novel mechanism reminiscent of a rowboat. The motor spins the two pectoral fins in a rowing motion, with a hinge at the bottom to control direction. This design allows the robot to move at surprising speed while still maintaining relatively firm control over its heading.
“Previously proposed robotic fish can use up to four servomotors to drive their fins,” Costa explained. “On the contrary, our design has a single motor. Aside from a reduction in encumbrance and inertia, the main improvement of our solution is the system’s inherent synchronization between left and right fins. Waterproofing issues are also minimal because only one motor needs to be sealed.”
If the design can be perfected, this robotic fish could be a handy ally in patrolling coastlines and exploring underwater archeological sites.