Our latest crop of nautical robots are a talented lot. They include a new and growing category of recreational, as well as professional, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). There's even an open-source version: build your own ROV from scratch or from a kit. Other robots designed to operate on or in water look like or emulate the movements of fish, turtles, or octopus. Some are designed to interact with living creatures or other robots.
Many typical nautical robots are underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs), or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Robots made to work in water are usually designed to be either remote-controlled or autonomous, and some can even switch from one mode to another. Some models can do a number of different types of tasks, depending on their payloads. One is a robotic boat. Another was designed for only one purpose: locating and eliminating jellyfish, which have become a dangerous and expensive pest in offshore waters around Korea.
Click on the Coralbot below to start the slideshow.
The Coralbot project underway at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland aims at designing an underwater robot that can rebuild the world's damaged coral reefs. Left on their own, coral reef regrowth and regeneration is a very slow process, partly because many pieces get scattered far apart. A swarm of Coralbots will find and collect pieces of living coral and bring them back together to speed regrowth efforts. This help is especially needed right after hurricanes or destructive fishing practices like bottom-trawling. Humans have done this in the past, but this takes time and there's a lot of acreage to cover. Marine biologists, computer scientists, and robotics engineers at the University's Ocean Systems Laboratory are now working on the Nessie 4 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), their latest prototype, which has passed some field tests in open water. (Source: Heriot-Watt University)
I thought it was interesting that I didn't find a lot of new robots based on biomimetics, like fish, jellyfish, octopus or turtles. But there's been a lot of activity in ROVs, especially personal, low-end designs. I think the most unique one is the Korean jellyfish killer.
I think it's interesting to note that the jellyfish killers communicate with each other over Zigbee. I'm not sure what the jellyfish's mortal enemy is in nature, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't know the Zigbee protocol.
I agree, I don't think jellyfish speak ZigBee, Chuck. Their natural predators according to Wikipedia are other jellyfish, as well as "tuna, shark, swordfish, sea turtles, and at least one species of Pacific salmon." Salmon? Weird.
When you have to explain your joke, it kills the humor.
And yes, ZigBee is short range, like Bluetooth; but very narrow bandwidth (small data), and very low power, so it can optimize battery life. This is a cool application for ZigBee; that is, if you support messing around with Mother Nature! (not that I like Jellyfish, but this seems like jelly-genocide.)
Jim, I'm pro-environment, but I've also studied biology, ecology and evolution. Speciation happens because environments change, so species are not all equal. Right now, to the jellyfish on the coasts of Korea, that means humans happened. Unless jelly-cide messes with the local ecosystem and has unexpected harmful results--as sometimes occurs from human interference--the genus overall doesn't have anything to worry about.
Ann, I think that I came across an obscure and not very detailed reference to that jellyfish killer a while back, but never heard any more about it. That would indeed be an interesting thing to read about, especially how it senses that it has found a jellyfish. Those are probably one of the few creatures that nobody would ever choose to defend, at least I would not offer any complaint about a machine that ate those nasty pests.
William, I had a moment's hesitation when I was reading about the robot grinding up jellyfish--aside from the "eew" factor, there was the "yikes it's killing an animal" factor. But I think you're right--they've been around for something like 700 million years, so they're a very successful life form since their enemies don't seem to be doing a very good job of wiping them out.
If anyone would object, the likely environmental group would be the Sea Turtle supporters – Jellyfish is a favorite dietary staple of Sea Turtles. Where I live near Ft. Lauderdale, its common knowledge that ZipLoc bags littered into the water, are mistaken as Jellyfish by Sea Turtles and they wind up asphyxiating themselves. Accordingly, people –even non-environmental fanatics – are very sensitive to littering Ziplocs in particular!
A while back we made some battery packs for TALON base units. That base can have a wide variety of attachments applied to it to make whatever... Since we didn't pressure test those packs for underwater use I'm guessing they are not on the beach comber shown in slide #9. I'll watch for hints of this use in any future builds of TALON packs now that I know about these.
And thanks for the photo Ann. We have a few TALON versions on the walls in the assembly area, and now we'll have the Beach Bum Harassment model too!
The jelly fish killers are interesting. I was in NE Australia in Nov 2012. It was eerie to be on a beautiful beach at mid-day and have no one in the water. Coming from Jersey where some of our beaches get pretty crowded I found myself feeling sad at the waste of miles of beach.
They have the deadly Box Jelly Fish to contend with. I read that they test the surf regularly to decide if the beach can be opened. A school of these could give real time data on stinger presence or absence, and grind up the little nasties at the same time.
But then again... some of the beaches were also closed because of CROCKS... Whole 'nother robot needed I suspect.
BTW... After printing that TALON picture I noticed it has what looks pretty much like a fishing rod pointing out the back. Pfft... But no beer.
If you have a pool in your backyard you could be using a robotic pool cleaner to keep it neat and tidy - a sort of underwater Roomba. They operate autonomously, usually dragging a power cable behind them, and despite appearing simple, they run sophisticated software to keep them out of trouble and help them get around.
The in-pool cleaner I have is the Hayward Navigator; Using no power cord, its cleverly designed to use the suction power of the attached vacuum hose to mechanically convert the suction action into a walking action, using two offset cams like a bicycle pedal. The device walks around the pool constantly, as long as the pool pump and filter are on for the day.
I consider the Hayward as randomly autonomous as a Roomba, which I think was classified as a Robot. One key difference is that it will not "back-up" when bumped in the front (a programmed decision for a robot) Instead, it just slowly turns to the right until it reorients itself into a clear path. The simplicity of its operation is admirable; Robot, or Not!
The Coral Bot Nessie 4 shown in the first slide, just doesn't look like it would maintain a level buoyancy; It looks front-heavy, and apt to roll ,,, like the pitch and yaw would be very difficult to maintain. Was that model actually reduced to practice-? (image looks like a rendering)
The last robot in the slideshow is the one that has copied the tutrtle's method of propulsion, which is cool. Considering that turtles can move a lot faster in the water than on land, and that they make their escape from sunning on logs to just "plop" into the water in a real hurry. Those robots could probably get past a defense system being mistaken for turtles. So copying nature does have advantages.
And the jellyfish grinders: Those toxic beasts reproduce fast enough that they would never be endangered, and probably few would miss them if they went extinct. The fact is that we don't know of any real benefit that they provide, except for keeping all the babes on the beach i that one area of Australia. And it seems that the various things that eat them also eat a lot of other things as well. So how about aquatic robots to herd tha salmon around to eat up the jellyfish? The problem is, "how do you herd salmon"?
One thing I really like about these nautical robots--the need came first then the robotic system. They all seem to fulfill some requirement(s) for their existence. I specifically like the CoralBot and the DeepTrekker bots. I suppose the robot that chews up jellyfish performs a function but it seems there should be a better way to dispose of (or remove) these things. Excellent post.
bobjengr you're sure right about these bots being designed for a purpose--they're not just R&D "what-if" creations. Although some of those can be pretty cool too. The jellyfish-eating bot *is* pretty gross, but apparently quite effective.
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