University engineers are building a human-sized robotic jellyfish that may one day patrol the oceans for months without intervention by operators.
Still a prototype, Virginia Tech’s “Cyro” robot is powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery, and can collect, store, analyze and communicate data from onboard sensors. A distinctive soft polymer covering mimics the animal’s jelly umbrella-shaped upper bell. This is attached to a rigid robotic skeleton. Cyro measures 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighs 170 pounds.
Researchers chose to mimic the marine invertebrate because its form conserves energy during movement and the creatures are found throughout the world’s oceans.
“Cyro showed its ability to swim autonomously while maintaining a similar physical appearance and kinematics as the natural species,” mechanical engineering professor Shashank Priya said in a university release. “This autonomous operation in shallow water conditions is already a big step towards demonstrating the use of these creatures.”
The engineering team is building the robotic jellies for the Navy, which is looking to deploy autonomous machines in the marine environment. The U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research are providing $5 million in funding for the project, which has so far created Cyro, a smaller prototype called RoboJelly and a third currently under development.
When they are ready, a fleet of self-powering undersea robots could conduct surveillance, monitor the environment, study aquatic life, map ocean floors and analyze ocean currents.
Top Image: Screen capture from Vimeo video. Courtesy Virginia Tech.