Saturday, March 30, 2013

Virginia Tech's Robotic Jelly Fish: Another way to spy

In the past few years the US armed forces and other US Government agencies have been spending a lot of their funds on funding and allotting their projects to Universities and technical  institutes across the United States. Most recent projects are robotic projects that mimic animals and can be used for potential surveillance and assistance to the armed forces both on and off the battlefield.

Here is another awesome potential spying/surveillance robot being developed by the Graduate students of Virginia Tech College of Engineering. This time its a Jelly Fish and its called 'Cryo'.

Click to see enlarged view
Cryo is basically a prototype robot that looks very much like a giant jelly fish. Its 5.7 feet wide (1.7 meters) and weighs in at 170 lbs (77kg) and its designed to be neutrally buoyant. The inspiration for the design is the 'Lion's mane jellyfish' also termed the 'Cyanea capillata' by biologist, that's were the name 'Cryo' comes from.

The robot basically has two major components, the inner rigid support structure and the outer silicon cover (Artificial Mesoglea) which looks like the skin of a jelly fish. The inner rigid structure holds the electronics. Attached to the body are eight mechanical arms that are actuated by linear actuators. The core idea of the project revolves around studying and mimicking the propulsion mechanism used by a real jelly fish. The movements of the arms are controlled by complex electronics and software; this makes it autonomous. Its like a deploy and forget kind of robot, although Cyro is hardly ready to be deployed in the oceans. The robot gives a mere 4 hour of swim time with its rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery. 

The work on its more energy efficient successor is already underway. One of the reasons the jelly fish was chosen as a template for the robot is the fact that jelly fish are very energy efficient marine animals. Also they exist in various shapes and sizes and are found in a wide variety of marine and fresh water habitat. This gives the robot an easy cover to remain undetected. On the civilian front this robot can be used to explore marine animals by blending in the ecosystem, also this could be used to clean up oil spills in the Oceans.

This project is funded by the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research, that also involves research being conducted at Providence College in Rhode Island, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Stanford University. 
The Virginia Tech team is headed by Prof. Shashank Priya.

Here is a video showing Cryo in action

Virginia Tech: Autonomous Robotic Jellyfish from virginiatech on Vimeo.


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