A swimming robot that mimics the super-effective way that jellyfish move about underwater could soon be used to explore coral reefs and archaeological sites. Experts use a measure called the'cost of transport' to compare the movement efficiency of different species from across the animal kingdom. Such studies have show that nature's more efficient mover -- easily beating out running and flying animals and bony fish -- is the moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita. These soft-bodied creatures move by squeezing their bodies in order to expel a jet of water that propels them forward. Inspired by this, engineers from Southampton and Edinburgh built a jet-driven robot that is around 10–50 times more efficient that its propeller-driven peers.
A study of an ancient sea reptile's swimming technique could lead to more manoeuvrable and efficient flipper-driven submarines, scientists believe. Researchers used a robot in a water tank to investigate the unique four-flipper swimming technique of the extinct plesiosaur, a ferocious ocean predator. Their results raise the prospect of copying a design concept nature came up with more than 100 million years ago to power submersible vehicles. A study of plesiosaur propulsion could lead to more manoeuvrable and efficient flipper-driven submarines, scientists believe. Plesiosaurs used two near-identical pairs of flippers to propel themselves through the water.
The plesiosaur is long extinct, but thanks to a biomechanical engineer, it has been reincarnated -- as a robot. This new so-called "robosaur" reveals the secret behind the animal's odd but powerful swimming style, which could inspire alternatives to boat and submarine propellers. Scientists have speculated over the swimming ability of plesiosaurs for decades. Long-necked and round-bodied, the plesiosaur lived 203 million years ago during the age of dinosaurs, but it was a marine reptile, more closely related to lizards and snakes. "There has been no other animal that swims like this, ever," Luke Muscutt, a biomechanical engineer at the University of Southampton in the U.K., told NewsHour.
The future of travel has been unveiled by Volocopter - and it seems remarkably efficient. The German flying car start-up has released a video that shows its vision of an urban'air taxi' system that could handle 10,000 passengers each day. The system features elaborate'Volo-port' stations perched on top of skyscrapers that are equipped with conveyor belts, swappable battery packs and lifts to speed up transfer of passengers. This means aircraft are always fully charged and ready to go, according to the company, which claims these futuristic landing pads could be commercially viable for normal people. The company hopes to have a prototype station in place next year but predicts that it will take around ten years before a city-wide system is in place.
"Essentially, we recreated all the key features that squids use for high-speed swimming," said Michael T. Tolley, one of the paper's senior authors and a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego. "This is the first untethered robot that can generate jet pulses for rapid locomotion like the squid and can achieve these jet pulses by changing its body shape, which improves swimming efficiency." This squid robot is made mostly from soft materials such as acrylic polymer, with a few rigid, 3D printed and laser cut parts. Using soft robots in underwater exploration is important to protect fish and coral, which could be damaged by rigid robots. But soft robots tend to move slowly and have difficulty maneuvering.