Robot jellyfish could be used to patrol fragile coral reefs

Could schools of robot jellyfish soon be patrolling the world’s oceans, monitoring fragile environments such as coral reefs? That’s the dream of U.S. researchers, comprising of scientists from Florida Atlantic University and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

They have developed a nature-inspired soft underwater robot, capable of some impressive underwater locomotion — including movement from side to side and swimming through small openings, all with the distinctive “jet propulsion” movement we instantly associate with jellyfish.

“Jellyfish are highly efficient swimmers; they get a lot of miles per gallon, so to speak,” Erik Engeberg, one of the researchers on the project from Florida Atlantic University, told Digital Trends. “Thus, we used them as inspiration for our design to enable long exploratory missions with low battery requirements.”

Jellyfish are highly impressive when it comes to moving through the water. Their propulsive ability is thanks to their body shape, which produces a combination of jet propulsion, vortex, rowing, and suction-based locomotion. To mimic aspects of this movement, the researchers building the jellyfish robot used two impeller pumps which draw in and push water to hydraulically drive the robot in the desired direction.

robot jellyfish patrol coral reefs explainer
IOPscience

“We made [the robotic jellyfish’s tentacles] soft so that it would not cause damage to delicate ecosystems like coral reefs,” Engeberg continued. “We used water to inflate the tentacles so that they undulate in a lifelike manner. Conventional underwater robots are rigid, and often use a propeller for locomotion, meaning they could unintentionally chop up coral reefs accidentally.”

One thing that makes the robot design so innovative is its simplicity. It requires no valves to work, which reduces space requirements and cost. To date, the team has 3D printed five of the jellyfish bots while using silicon for its actuators.

At present, the project is still in its relative infancy. In the future, however, the team hopes to further develop the robot by adding features such as environmental sensors such as sonar, as well as a navigational algorithm that lets it determine whether it can fit through certain gaps.

“The jellyfish robots would work well in a drift dive situation, where they are inserted into the water at one point and drift with the current with some maneuverability if any important sensor readings were found,” Engeberg said. “We would be careful to monitor their locations so that they could be safely removed after the mission.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.