Drones aren’t just proliferating in the sky – they’ll soon populate the seas, where engineers are drawing inspiration from Nature’s own designs. Dispatched by governments and researchers, these unmanned craft will patrol harbours, track wildlife migration and investigate shipwrecks. – By Erik Schechter
Engineers at Virginia Tech, funded by the US Navy, developed Cyro to be an endurance undersea-monitoring machine. The 77 kg, silicone-skinned robotic jelly fish can operate in the ocean for months. The university researchers are considering how the Cyro could help clean up oil spills, but the Navy might use the technology for subtle underwater surveillance. Eight robotic arms under the skin control movement, while a rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery powers the robot, allowing natural movement of a thick, flexible silicone cover, designed to mimic the umbrella of a jellyfish.
This amphibious snake comes with a glowing, cyclopean camera head and ridges – tiny wheels and paddles for motion – that line its segmented body. The system, developed by Japanese company HiBot in conjunction with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is designed for search-and-rescue operations that would require wriggling through gaps too narrow for human first responders.
3. Crabster CR200
Developed at the Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology, the Crabster is a 2 metre-tall, 600 kg tethered robot that will be used from July next year to inspect shipwrecks and track marine life. The giant bot is armed with LED spotlights, sonar, cameras and navigation sensors, and its legs are powerful enough to stay on course, even when going against the current.