More robotic fish: MIT researchers build school of robo-fish

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment
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You Will Soon Be Watched Underwater by a Robotic Tuna

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

When you think of autonomous, unmanned spy vehicles, you probably imagine the telltale shape of a small aircraft overhead, and the suspicious sound of whirring propellers. Spy vehicles, however, aren’t just for the sky anymore. The U.S. Navy has funded the development of an autonomous, unmanned vehicle shaped like a fish and capable of covering up to three times the distance of a typical UAV using the same battery. It’s called GhostSwimmer, and it’ll be entering our waters in 2009.

Researchers at Boston Engineering and at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering created GhostSwimmer, which a refined version of an initial MIT prototype called RoboTuna. Since the tuna is one of the fastest fish in the oceans, the RoboTuna team reasoned, a robot that could mimic its movements would be an ideal underwater vehicle. RoboTuna — and, by extension, GhostSwimmer — resulted from an extensive study of the hydrodynamics of tuna motion and an intricate mimic design. GhostSwimmer swims by manipulating its dorsal (back), pectoral (chest), and caudal (tail) fins; like its biological namesake, it can reach up to 70 kilometers per hour.

This speed caught the eye of the Navy, who want to use GhostSwimmer as both a spy vehicle and a prototype for a future class of fuel-efficient submarines. After a few more years, we might have an entire school of robotic fish confusing the hell out of the rest of the ocean.

The RoboTuna Project

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

MIT’s RoboTuna is an engineering project which models the swimming dynamics of a bluefin tuna. Designing RoboTuna has been challenging due to the difficulty of analyzing and then emulating the complex movement of the fish at it swims through its liquid environment. A genetic algorithm is one of the tools used to search through data and determine optimal parameters to control movement of the robot.

RoboTuna is a long term project, originated in 1993 as a doctoral thesis. The overall goal of the project is to use a biological model to develop advanced propulsion systems for underwater vehicles. For more information on RoboTuna, including pictures and videos, see the MIT RoboTuna website.


Robotuna’s Revenge

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Rufus has one small piece of advice for those robotic fish that MIT have been nerding up for a while: Stay away from Jeremy Piven. Dude would eat two of you in a day and wouldn’t think twice about it.

At the very least, MIT has to be close to perfecting the “sharks with laser beams” technology.

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Inhabitat » robotuna

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment


August 25, 2009

robofish, mit, robot, fish

MIT engineers have developed a cheap, compact robotic fish that can go where no man (or underwater vehicle) has been able to go before. The pint-sized robofish, developed by Kamal Youcuf-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado, could potentially be used to detect underwater environmental pollutants and inspect submerged boats and oil and gas pipes. Another plus is that they don’t smell.

robofish, robot, fish, mit

The new MIT robofish is far from the first robotic fish–MIT’s four foot long Robotuna, built in 1994, had 2,843 parts and six motors. Youcuf-Toumi and Valdivida y Alvarado’s fish is less than a foot long, contains only 10 parts, and has a single motor. Since the new fish uses fewer parts, it’s cheaper to build. And that means there is minimal risk if a robofish gets stuck or destroyed in an underwater structure.

The University of Essex also recently designed a robofish, but it uses rigid components to mimic the normal motions of fish. In comparison, the MIT design uses polymers that stiffen the tuna-like robofish only in specified areas–an ability that adds to the fish’s speed and maneuverability.

The robofish require 2.5 to 5 watts of power from an external source, but scientists hope that one day the fish could be powered with an external battery. Next up for the robot masterminds at MIT: building robotic salamanders and manta rays.



Robotuna – newly designed submarine robot to be used in ocean

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

What’s shaped like a tuna, swims like a tuna, but transmits data to scientists on shore? It’s Robotuna, an underwater robot designed to “swim” underwater longer than other robotic submarines.

Scientists often use these subs to map the ocean floor, conduct fish counts, and monitor pollution over time. But “you simply can’t put enough batteries on board for long-term missions,” says David Barrett, an ocean engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

So Barrett and his team decided to save fuel by making their robot propel itself more efficiently–like a fish.

Hence, Robotuna’s design, which includes:

* a streamlined body, which cuts down on drag, the resistant force of water pushing against it, and

* a backbone of metal vertebrae, which bends in response to a motor’s signal to “swish” the tail side to side for propulsion.

The sub now swims in an MIT tank, attached to cables so scientists can track its movements. This summer, the team hopes to release a free-swimming model into a pond, and soon, into the open sea.

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A robotic tuna for the Navy | Emerging Technology Trends

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

You might not know that the bluefin tuna is an ultra-efficient swimmer. But the U.S. Navy knows that this tuna can reach speeds of 50 mph. So it wants to build robotic bluefin tunas for submarine surveillance missions. The first prototypes, designed by Massachusetts engineers, should be available by the end of the year. Of course, there are many other autonomous underwater vehicles (UAVs) already on the market. But there is a twist: a vast majority of them uses propellers. In fact, they are gliders, not swimmers. And RoboTuna 2.0 will be able to travel three times longer than these gliders with the same batteries. But read more…

RoboTuna II rib cage

You can see above the RoboTuna II rib cage. (Credit: MIT) Here is a link to a larger version of this photo.

RoboTuna II new tail

And you can see above the RoboTuna II new tail. (Credit: MIT) Here is a link to a larger version of this photo. Other photos from MIT are available from this gallery.

The RoboTuna II (a.k.a. as RoboTuna 2.0) project is led at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering by David Barrett, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the SCOPE Program (Senior Consulting Program for Engineering). He worked with Boston Engineering principal engineer Mike Rufo, who is overseeing the project.

So when will the Navy receive its first robotic tunas? “‘We expect to have a working prototype by the end of the year,’ said Olin’s David Barrett in an interview Thursday. ‘We have some talented students working on it and we have a great swimming pool for testing.’ Barrett said the plan is to test the device later in a lake at Wellesley College.”

A bluefin tuna can reach a speed of 50 mph (or about 80 km/h) How can he do it? “The bluefin’s torpedo-shaped body is nearly circular in cross-section, making it a natural choice for engineers to study and build prototypes. “‘The bluefin tuna is the fastest of fish,’ said a specialist at the Fisheries Service. ‘It’s a powerful and fast swimmer with great hydrodynamics.’ The fish tuck their fins in when they want to accelerate. The Olin-Boston Engineering project’s robotic tuna is based on the species’ biology and behavior with a spine and vertebrae that produce motion via synthetic muscles. Barrett said the robot’s fins and tail produce motion and propulsion.”

In an article published on July 25, 2008 by Mass High Tech, Massachusetts, “Engineers build ‘RoboTuna’ for Navy, Brendan Lynch provided additional details. “RoboTuna is designed to be biomimetic, based on animal biology and behavior, and will sport a spine and vertebrae that triggers a wave of motion by using synthetic muscles made of electro-active polymers that run the length of the robot. The fins and tail turn the robot’s motion into propulsion, according to David Barrett.”

And why the Navy wants to get these robotic tunas? “The U.S. Navy wants to incorporate the technology into a superefficient, tuna-mimicking submarine of the future, Barrett said. In the near term, the military wants to use the robots for intelligence gathering. A tuna-based robot would be able to go on longer missions and would be able to hold different payloads, such as cameras and radioactivity sensors, in its modular payload bay.”

For more information about this project, here is a link to a two-minute video produced by New England Cable News (NECN), Massachusetts, “Robotuna to be used for military intelligence,” which contains an interview with Brendan Lynch. You also might want to read about the story of the first RoboTuna, which started 15 years ago at the MIT.

Sources: W. David Gardner, InformationWeek, August 28, 2008; and various websites

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