New Underwater Propulsion like Fish

Tunabot - Fast as Tuna, Next G Underwater Vehicle Propulsion

Source:  University of Virginia

Prototype for Next G Underwater Vehicle Propulsion
The tuna is one of the fastest fish in the sea.  A mechanical engineering team from University of Virginia in collaboration with biologists from Harvard University have invented a robofish that can swim as fast as a yellowfin tuna.  The team says it's not about the robot.  It's about inventing a new, faster and more efficient underwater propulsion system for manned and unmanned underwater vehicles.

Physics of Fish Propulsion
At Harvard and UVA, Tunabot is tethered in a large flow tank with a green laser to measure fluid motion as it swims.  Yellowfin tuna grow to 7 feet.  The Tunabot is 10 inches long.  The purpose of this research is to better understand the physics of fish propulsion to develop the next generation of underwater vehicles with fish like propulsion system.  The team says the ultimate goal "is to surpass biology" with new, quicker and more efficient propulsion.  According to the researchers, Tunabot is the world's fastest robot fish right now.

Surpassing Biology
The device has been tested at both Harvard and UVA.  It can swim with a maximum speed equal to the real fish, which is 4 body lengths per second.  Tunabot's body is flexible and it swims just like a tuna.  With a 10 watt battery pack, it can go 1.3 feet per second for a distance of 5.6 miles.  If the speed is increased to 3.3 feet per second, the range is 2.5 miles.  This is just the beginning for this new technology.  It could possibly be used for underwater surveillance, as part of the funding is from the US Office of Naval Research.  But the aim is beyond that:  a brand new, innovative propulsion system that bio-inspired.


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