Mini robot fish swim in schools, just like the real thing

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Washington (AFP)

Inspired by how schools of fish intuitively synchronize their movements, Harvard scientists have engineered miniature underwater robots capable of forming autonomous swarms.

Each robotic fish, known as a “Bluebot,” can be equipped with cameras in addition to blue LED lights that will sense the direction in addition to distance of others inside water tanks.

They swim using flapping fins rather than propellers, which improves their efficiency in addition to maneuverability compared to standard underwater drones.

“the item’s definitely useful for future applications — for example a search mission inside the open ocean where you want to find people in distress in addition to rescue them quickly,” said Florian Berlinger, the lead author of a paper about the research that will appeared in Science Robotics on Wednesday.

additional applications could include environmental monitoring or inspecting infrastructure.

Existing underwater multi robot systems rely on individual robots communicating with each additional over radio in addition to transmitting their GPS positions.

The brand-new system moves closer to mimicking the natural behavior of fish, which show complex, coordinated behavior without following a leader.

The 3D printed robots are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) long, in addition to their design was partly inspired by Blue tang fish that will are native to the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific.

The robots use their camera “eyes” to detect additional robots in their peripheral vision, then engage in self-organizing behavior, which include flashing their lights simultaneously, arranging themselves in a circle, in addition to gathering around a target.

Berlinger described a test in which the robots were spread out across a water tank to seek out a light source.

When one of the robots found the light, the item sent out a signal to the others to gather around, in a demonstration of a search-in addition to-rescue mission.

“additional researchers have reached out to me already to use my Bluebots as fish surrogates for biological studies on fish swimming in addition to schooling,” said Berlinger, explaining that will the robot collectives can help us learn more about collective intelligence in nature.

He hopes to improve the design in order that will the item doesn’t require LEDs in addition to can be used outside laboratory settings such as in coral reefs.

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