Dolphins Inspire Leaping, Swimming Robot

Researchers have built a fast and agile robotic dolphin that can be used to investigate water quality.

AsianScientist (Nov. 28, 2016) – Researchers at the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a swimming robot that can mimic dolphin leaps. Their research has been published in the IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics.

Dolphins are the aquatic acrobats of the natural world, capable of leaping up to several meters in the air and executing swift turns. Professor Yu Junzhi and his team modeled their robot after the spotted dolphin, paying particular attention to streamlining and developing a high thrust tail.

The main load-bearing parts of the skeleton are made of titanium while other parts are made of aluminum, copper and nylon. As for electronics, the dolphin robot is equipped with a microcontroller with high computational performance, a variety of onboard sensors and a wireless communication module.

Building the hardware was only part of the challenge; the other half was modeling and calculating the speeds and angles needed for recreating the dolphin’s leap. To solve this problem, the research team proposed a novel angle of attack theory to maximize the pushing speed. The robot was controlled with a hybrid propulsion system and complementary flippers.

In a swimming test held at the Qinhai Trangu Reservoir, the dolphin robot reached a speed of 2.1 m/s, making it one of the fastest swimmers for its size ever built. The robot also performed several kinds of dolphin leaps, such as the one-shot leap and serial leaps. In addition, the robot was used to acquire data of water quality parameters such as pH value, temperature, electric conductivity.

According to Yu, their next stage of research will focus on investigating energy expenditure to examine the power-speed relationship in dolphin movement. The team is also working on increasing the jumping distance and height by improving mechanical design and control approaches.

The article can be found at: Yu et al. (2016) Development of a Fast-Swimming Dolphin Robot Capable of Leaping.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences.
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