Researchers, led by an Indian origin scientist, have developed a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish - the size and weight of a grown man - for surveillance and monitoring of oceans.
The prototype robot, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds, nicknamed Cyro, is a larger model of a robotic jellyfish the same team - headed by Shashank Priya of Blacksburg and professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech - unveiled last year.
"A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration and longer range of operation," said Alex Villanueva of St-Jacques, New-Brunswick, Canada.
The goal is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents.
Jellyfish are attractive candidates to mimic because of their ability to consume little energy owing to a lower metabolic rate than other marine species. They appear in wide variety of sizes, shapes and colours, allowing for several designs.
They also inhabit every major oceanic area of the world and are capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures in both fresh and salt waters, researchers said.
Priya's team is building the jellyfish body models, integrating fluid mechanics and developing control systems.
"We hope to improve on this robot and reduce power consumption and improve swimming performance as well as better mimic the morphology of the natural jellyfish," Villanueva said.
Cyro is powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery, whereas the smaller models were tethered, Priya said.
The jellyfish must operate on their own for months or longer at a time as engineers likely won't be able to capture and repair the robots, or replace power sources.
"Cyro showed its ability to swim autonomously while maintaining a similar physical appearance and kinematics as the natural species," Priya said, adding the robot is able to collect, store, analyse, and communicate sensory data.
"This autonomous operation in shallow water conditions is already a big step towards demonstrating the use of these creatures," Priya said in a statement.
Its body consists of a rigid support structure with direct current electric motors which control the mechanical arms that are used in conjunction with an artificial mesoglea, or jelly-based pulp of the fish's body, creating hydrodynamic movement.