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BIOSwimmer robot mimics the humble tuna fish


September 20, 2012

Scientists believe the tuna fish has a natural body framework that's tailor-made for UUV-like machines (Image: Jane Baker, DHS, S and T)

Scientists believe the tuna fish has a natural body framework that's tailor-made for UUV-like machines (Image: Jane Baker, DHS, S and T)

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Scientists involved in robotics research are increasingly looking toward biological systems for solutions to specific challenges, and when one considers that nature has been solving problems for rather a lot longer than we humans have, this makes sense. Such is the reasoning behind BIOSwimmer: an underwater surveillance robot created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S and T) that takes its design cues from the tuna fish.

Biomimetic robotry has previously given rise to all manner of weird machines, such as the Robo-Bat, Robo-Fish and the artificial butterfly.

"It's all about distilling the science," explains David Taylor, program manager for the BIOSwimmer in S and T's Borders and Maritime Security Division. "We're using nature as a basis for design and engineering a system that works exceedingly well."

BIOSwimmer packs a battery-powered on-board computer suite used for navigation, sensor processing and communications, while the external shell sports a flexible aft section. Appropriately placed sets of pectoral and other fins lend it high maneuverability and the unit is remote controlled by a laptop-wielding operator. The robot also features interchangeable sensors which allow it to be configured on a per-mission basis, lending maximum compatibility for each given situation.

The unique design of BIOSwimmer is said to afford surveillance in places which may not be accessible with a larger unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), and if one compares the BIOSwimmer with the imposing looking Talisman Autonomous Underwater System, for example, it’s clear that a more compact and flexible robot could be just what’s required for accessing such challenging areas.

Future implementation of the BIOSwimmer may include the inspection of the interior voids of ships such as flooded bilges and tanks, in addition to harbors, piers, and platform area searches.

Work on the BIOSwimmer robot is still ongoing and Boston Engineering Corporation's Advanced Systems Group (ASG) in Waltham, Massachusetts, is currently developing the BIOSwimmer for S and T.

Source: Homeland Security

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

What's «humble» about the tuna» ? A fantastic animal, one of the most amazing creatures evolution has vouchsafed us on this planet ?...



Is that a ducted propeller attached to the caudal peduncle? This is no more than a conventional AUV with a steerable propeller. They have a long way to go before they begin to approach the elegance of a tuna.


Now if it could just swim as fast as one, then were talking.

John Sweet

Funny looking at the design, as a family we made a six foot blue shark which looks almost the same design but swam as a shark with its fins. However this was done in 1999 and was radio control rather than autonomous, our budget was also a bit smaller! The shark was for Technogames and we still have it!

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