MantaDroid robot may one day join its inspiration in the depths of the ocean

“MantaDroid” may sound like the name of a villain from a ’90s-era Saturday morning cartoon like Street Sharks, but it’s actually the latest cutting-edge piece of robotics research from the National University of Singapore. A manta ray-inspired swimming robot, MantaDroid is able to “fly” smoothly and speedily through the water, while showing off an impressive level of agility in the process.

“Manta rays are known to be extremely efficient swimmers, cruising through the turbulent seas with ease as they flap their large pectoral fins effortlessly,” Professor Chew Chee-Meng, who helped lead the project, told Digital Trends. “We wanted to explore an alternative solution to traditional propeller-based thrusters that are used by most autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). We envisaged that a bio-inspired AUV, which emulates the manta ray’s swimming locomotion, could potentially operate for longer range than a conventional AUV.”

The MantaDroid robot is the size of a juvenile manta ray, giving it a wingspan of 63.4 cm and a body length of 35 cm. Its most unique feature is its passively flexible fin mechanism, which uses just one actuator for each pectoral fin to allow the fins to interact naturally with the fluid dynamics of the water.

manta ray robot singapore dsc03922
National University of Singapore
National University of Singapore

“With the right combination of fin design, fin flexibility, and motion control, the MantaDroid is able to swim efficiently in the water,” Chee-Meng continued. “Our robot is capable of swimming at a speed of 2 body lengths per second, which is faster than the robot manta ray systems developed by other institutions.”

Another advantage of being modeled after a manta ray is that its flat, wide body gives the researchers behind MantaDroid more room to accommodate different sensors on its belly. At present, with the robot being tested only in swimming pools, its capability isn’t being tested to the maximum. Deployment in the real world would provide the ability for the robot to be equipped with whatever it needs for a particular mission — so long as the payload weighs less than two pounds.

“We see MantaDroid as a potential long-term continuous underwater surveying machine, which could be useful for maritime industries, environmental agencies, and search and rescue organizations,” Chee-Meng said. “For example, it can be used for underwater inspection tasks, as well as for collection of hydrographic data. With swarm intelligence, multiple MantaDroids [could] also be deployed to concurrently perform search operations, such as looking for lost divers or sunken objects in the sea.”

Outdoors

Aussies hope free Wi-Fi on their beaches will lead to fewer drownings

Lifeguards in Australia have hit on an idea to use Wi-Fi to make the nation's beaches safer. It's a simple but clever idea that plays on our need to stay connected around the clock.
Movies & TV

Fresh footage and Willem Dafoe make the final 'Aquaman' trailer special

Jason Momoa will bring Aquaman back to the big screen for a solo feature in December 2018. Here's everything we know so far about the aquatic superhero's live-action adventure in the DC Extended Universe.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.