Skip to main content

Underwater jumping robot showcases amazing nature-inspired leaping abilities

k1 1

Forget Olympics high jumpers; if you really want to see some impressive vertical leaping look no further than aquatic animals such as the whale, dolphin, and even the humble mobula rays — all of which are capable of launching themselves out of the water and into the air with graceful ease. Borrowing from this technique, researchers from Cornell University have developed a breaching robot that is able to pull off similarly dazzling feats in a tank of water.

“In this study, we [elucidated] the physics of jumping aquatic animals by analyzing biological data, conducting simplified experiments, and theoretical modeling,” Sunghwan Jung, associate professor in Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, told Digital Trends.

“By firing axisymmetric bodies out of water, we found two distinct regimes that govern jump height as related to the ratio of inertia to gravity,” Jung continued. “Based on these findings, a bio-inspired robot was built to jump out of water. When exiting water, the robot carries a large volume of fluid referred to as an entrained mass. A theoretical model [was] developed to predict the jumping height of various water-exiting bodies, which shows that the mass of the entrained fluid relative to the mass of the body limits the maximum jumping height.”

The researchers chose to borrow the techniques exhibited by two of the animals they studied. These included copepods, a group of small crustaceans found in virtually every water environment, and frogs. Both use the flapping motion of appendages to leap. For copepod, this is done by flicking their antennae downward to jump. For frogs, this is achieved by pushing down and then flapping their feet.

The team’s robot — which resembles a door hinge attached to a rubber band — incorporates a similar flapping motion using its two appendages. As can be seen from the above video, the results are fairly impressive. However, Jung noted that there is still much more work to be done before this development can be incorporated into real-world robotic systems.

“I would like to emphasize that our robot shows a proof-of-concept and is far from real-world deployments yet,” he said. “But we are thinking of using this robotic system to surveil near water basins to monitor the environments. For example, we [could one day] deploy this robot in a river. It will flow down along the river without any propulsive mechanism. When the robot senses a toxic chemical around, it jumps and takes a picture of the location or send out an external signal to report the toxicity in the river.”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Liquid metal tendons could give robots the ability to heal themselves
Robot Hand

Self-healing Metal Tendon for Legged Robots

Since fans first clapped eyes on the T-1000, the shape-shifting antagonist from 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, many people have been eagerly anticipating the day in which liquid metal robots became a reality. And by “eagerly anticipating,” we mean “had the creeping sense that such a thing is a Skynet eventuality, so we might as well make the best of it.”

Read more
Startup founded by ex-Navy SEALs is building underwater robots to map the ocean
terradepth underwater mapping robot hardware 2

A tag team of deep-sea underwater robots sounds a whole lot like the setup for a Hollywood blockbuster. In fact, it’s the mission statement of a new startup with the appropriately cinematic name Terradepth. The company, founded by a pair of ex-Navy SEALs, is building autonomous submersible robots to help map parts of the ocean that are typically difficult to monitor. And it’s raised $8 million in funding to do so.

“Our highly intelligent unmanned ocean vehicle completely removes the need for humans at sea,” the company notes on its website. “The Terradepth AxV is deep-ocean rated, highly modular, and powers a large payload of sensors.”

Read more
Robot bartending company is handing out cash to the people it is replacing
robot bartending company automation stipend makr shakr ph credit avocado studio

There’s no doubt that automation is going to have a massive impact on employment over the coming decades. Whether you think it’s going to result in mass unemployment or wind up creating whole classes of new job types, A.I. and robotics are still going to be enormous workplace disruptors. And tech companies know it.

One startup taking a welcome proactive step is Makr Shakr, the company behind Toni, which describes itself as “the world’s leading robotic bartending system.” Makr Shakr just announced that it is launching the world’s first automatic stipend. For every robot bartender that it sells, the company is going to be handing over a $1,000 monthly stipend to a select person in a field likely to be affected by automation. The pilot program will kick off in December, before arriving in Europe later in 2020.

Read more