Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a set of fish-shaped underwater robots that can automatically guide and locate each other, collaborate to perform tasks or simply study at school together in peace.
Like aerial drones that have proven to be useful in industry after industry, underwater drones can revolutionize maritime ecosystems and other areas that need a constant but difficult underwater presence.
The past few years have seen an interesting new automatic underwater vehicle or AUV. But the most common type is the torpedo that is effective for cruising in open water. But not for working through the nooks and grooves of coral reefs or marinas.
For that purpose, it would seem helpful to see what nature sees fit to be built, and the Wyss Institute has built a unique expertise in doing so and creating robots and machines that mimic the natural world.
In this case, Florian Berlinger, Melvin Gauci and Radhika Nagpal, all co-authors on a new paper published in Science Robotics, decided to mimic, not just the shape of the fish. But also the way he interacts with his friends.
Nagpal was inspired by the visualization of fish studies during the dives. Nagpal asked, “How do we create artificial agents that can demonstrate this kind of coherence, where the whole group looks like? Is the only representative “
Their answer, Blueswarm, is a collection of small, 3D-printed, fish-shaped “Bluebots” with fins instead of propellers and an eye camera. Even if you and I do not mistake these are really fish. But they’re less intimidating for ordinary fish to see better than a six-foot metal tube with a noisy spinning prop in the background. Bluebots also mimic nature’s innovative fluorescence, which is illuminated by LEDs like some fish and insects do to signal others.The LED pulses will change and adjust depending on the bot’s position. Each character and knowledge of the neighbor
Using the simple feel of the camera and light sensors on the front, elementary swimming movements and LEDs, the Blueswarm automatically organizes itself into group swimming behaviors, creating a “bite” pattern. A simple one that supports new bots when they fall from every angle.
Robots can also work together in simple tasks, such as finding something. If this group is tasked with finding the red LEDs on the tanks they are on the tanks, each of them can look independently. But when one of them finds it, it changes its own LED blinking to alert and call others.
It is not difficult to imagine the use of this technology. These robots can safely get close to coral reefs and other natural features without being shocked by marine life, monitor their health, or looking for specific objects the camera’s eye can detect. Or they can move around under docks and hull inspection boats more efficiently than a single craft. Maybe it will be useful to find and help.
The research also improves our understanding of how and why animals grouped together in the first place.
With this research, we cannot only create more advanced groups of robots. But also learn about the overall wisdom of nature. Fishes have to follow simpler behavior patterns when swimming in school than our robots do. This simplicity is beautiful. “Other researchers have reached out to me to use my Bluebots as fish agents for biological studies of fish swimming and for the study. Their welcoming Bluebot among the experimental fish made me very happy. ”