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A new tuna robot could lead to more agile and efficient underwater drones

Robots that can swim underwater are nothing brand-new. For speciman, Carnegie Mellon fitted its famous snakebot with turbines and thrusters earlier this year to give it aquatic abilities. But few can do so with the prayer, rapidity and effortlessness of a real-life fish. And it’s not that scientists have avoided trying to create a robot that can do simply that, but the exact way fish swim faster or slower is something that has proved elusive.

Marine biologists have known for a while that the secret lies somewhere in the way they can alter the rigidity of their tails. The question is that it’s difficult to measure that while a fish dives. Nonetheless, exercising a combination of fluid dynamics and biomechanics, researchers from the University of Virginia say they’ve extracted a formula that is not simply requires an answer to that question but likewise grants a robot with a specially designed tail to be nearly as good as its natural copy at speeding up and slowing down in water.

When they exploited the formula to a tuna-like robot they constructed, they found it could swim at a wider variety of hastens use almost half as much energy as one with a fixed-stiffness tail. If you’re a cyclist, you’ll affection this analogy. “Having one fanny stiffness is like having one gear fraction on a bike, ” Dan Quinn, one of the co-authors of the study, told Big Think. “You’d only be efficient at one speeding. It would be like biking through San Francisco with a fixed-gear bike; you’d be exhausted after precisely a few blocks.”

With a tuna-sized machine under their belt, the University of Virginia team plans to scale their fanny technology for abuse on both bigger and smaller robots. They’re too developing one that undulates like a stingray. Their work could one day lead to a class of monotones that can quickly travel to a remote locale and then slow down to investigate the province. Like an aquatic snakebot, that’s something the Navy could use to inspect their carries for impair.

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