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Monday, April 1, 2013

Giant robotic jellyfish to roam the seas

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank. Engineers at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering are really at work developing a robot that mimics the swimming ability of jellyfish. You can see an 80 kg prototype, dubbed Cyro, being tested by Virginia Tech students below.

Why emulate a jellyfish? Jellyfish expend remarkably little energy for propulsion. A robot using similar methods of locomotion would be able to travel great distances without recharging. Thus, they could be sent on long reconnaissance or environmental monitoring missions. For example, the robots could be used to map the ocean floor or monitor water quality. Of course, they are being funded by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center, so that probably does not rule out military or surveillance usage. But don’t worry, the researchers, led by Shashank Priya, are years away from having a fully functional model.

By the way, here’s the creature that inspired the engineers: Cyanea capillata, or lion’s mane jellyfish. It's the largest known jellyfish, with a bell over two meters across and tentacles that can reach 37 meters. The name ‘Cryo’ is a combination of ‘Cyanea’ and ‘robot’.

 Virginia Tech Engineers Create Cyro Robotic Jellyfish With Surveillance Capabilities
Credit: Dan Hershman

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