Inspired by how schools of fish spontaneously synchronize their movements, Harvard scientists have enabled miniature underwater robots to form autonomous flocks.
Each robot fish, known as a blueboat, is equipped with cameras and blue LED lights that feel the direction and distance of others inside water tanks.
They float using flapping wings instead of propellers, which improves their efficiency and maneuverability compared to standard underwater drones.
“This is certainly useful for future applications – for example a search mission in the open sea where you want to find people in distress and rescue them quickly,” one of the research published in Science Robotics The paper’s lead author, Florian Berlinger, said. on Wednesday.
Other applications may include environmental monitoring or infrastructure inspection.
Current underwater multi-robot systems rely on individual robots communicating with each other over the radio and transmitting their GPS positions.
The new system moves closer to mimicking the fish’s natural behavior, showing complex, coordinated behavior without following a leader.
3D printed robots are about 10 centimeters (4 in) long, and their design was partly inspired by blue tang fish that are native to the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific.
Robots use their camera “eyes” to detect other robots in their peripheral vision, then engage in self-organizing behavior, which involves shining their lights together, arranging themselves in a circle, and Involves gathering around a target.
Berlinger described a test in which robots were dispersed in a water tank to look for a light source.
When one of the robots got the light, he sent a signal to the others to gather around, performing a search-and-rescue mission.
“Other researchers have already reached out to me to use my blueboats because the fish are surveyed for biological studies on swimming and schooling,” Berlinger explained, about the collective intelligence in the robot collective nature Can help us learn more.
He hopes to improve the design so that it does not require LEDs and can be used outside of laboratory settings such as coral reefs.
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