Monday, November 25, 2013

Flying Robot Moves Like a Jellyfish

Miniature robots can fly like helicopters and insects. Why not a jellyfish?
Weird as it sounds, Leif Ristroph of New York University decided that the aerodynamics of jellyfish offered a good method of designing a flying robot while keeping the size down. Air and water are both fluids, after all — the latter is just thicker.
Another issue, though, was stability. Flying insects — flies for instance — are inherently unstable. The fly has to do a lot of fine control. Nature has equipped the fly with some pretty sophisticated systems in its brain. But cramming all that software into a package small enough to fly isn’t easy. Hence the move to jellyfish as a model.
Ristroph’s robot flies by flapping four wings that are arranged around the robot’s “waist.”  The wings move up and down and it looks like a jellyfish, though strictly speaking the aerodynamics are probably a bit more like a moth.
Ristroph’s robot is just two grams and about four inches across, and the ‘bot can hover and fly. The whole thing is a lot more stable than a fly-wing design would be, so you needn’t take up valuable space with flight control hardware, or shield it with any kind of outer shell, as in this design.
It’s not a fully autonomous robot yet, though. It is attached to a tether as it hasn’t got its own power source. But Ristroph noted in a press release that the size of the robot only depends on how big and powerful the motor is. On other words, if you don’t need a lot of power, the motor can be relatively small. He plans to work on making more autonomous ‘bots, and smaller ones, that can fly around and squeeze into small spaces.
Ristroph is presenting his work at the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting in Pittsburgh on Nov. 24.
Image: A screen grab from a video accompanying the press release from the APS Meeting
The fast and maneuverable Naro-Tartaruga will have pressure, temperature, water leakage and water flow sensors, along with gyros, GPS and a compass to navigate. 
Water, mechanical components and electronics don’t mix easily, but that never stopped roboticists from plunging in deep. Meet the animal-inspired aquatic bots that are making waves.

8 Snake Robots Crawling Your Way

Soft arms and artificial muscles give this octobot a firm grip.
One day a powerful robotic octopus with soft, grasping arms could pull you out of treacherous waters and save your life. An interdisciplinary European project to engineer a full-body octopus robot has produced a functional prototype. Led by Cecilia Laschi from the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, a working version with silicone arms and artificial muscles was displayed at the London Science Museum last fall.

10 Materials that Emulate Nature

A robot based on a salamander has a neural network modeled on a real one.
Swiss bio-roboticists trying to understand how to improve vertebrae movement first made a robotic salamander prototype in 2007. Last spring Auke Ijspeert and his Biorobotics Laboratory colleagues at EPFL in Switzerland demonstrated the next-gen version, called Salamandra robotica II. This little guy sports a neural network modeled on a real one and can crawl, walk and swim much faster than the first. It moves when scientists trigger electrical signals connected to distributed microcontrollers. In an outdoor demo, the robotic salamander went from the shore to the water and swam with swans.

Top 10 Robot Talents

The 3.3-foot-long robotic sea turtle called Naro-Tartaruga weighs 165 pounds and swims fairly quickly.
A team of mechanical engineers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is testing the waters with a robotic turtle created for autonomous underwater navigation. The 3.3-foot-long robotic sea turtle called Naro-Tartaruga weighs 165 pounds and can swim fairly quickly, too. In November, the team took the prototype for its first swim tests in a pool. The robot’s actuated fin system helped it move naturally underwater. For a brief moment, one of the scientists even rode the bot.

'Flipperbot' Crawls Like a Turtle to Save Them

Jellyfish use little energy to move so an autonomous, robotic one could monitor and explore oceans continuously.
Engineers at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering started small last year, creating a robotic jellyfish dubbed RoboJelly that you could hold in your hands. Then in March they went big with a 5-foot-7 silicone-covered prototype called Cyro that weighs 170 pounds. The battery-powered robot development, led by professor Shashank Priya, is part of a larger U.S. Navy-funded project. Jellyfish naturally thrive in all kinds of different environments and use little energy to move so an autonomous robotic one could monitor and explore oceans continuously.

Giant Robotic Jellyfish Readied for Sea Patrol

A tree frogs’ gripping feet became the inspiration for a robotic camera that could safely move around slippery internal tissues during abdominal surgery. 
Is that a frog in your stomach? University of Leeds engineers looked to tree frogs’ gripping feet as inspiration for a robotic camera that could safely move around slippery internal tissues during abdominal surgery. Engineering professor Anne Neville headed the research, noting that tree frogs have channels on their feet so they can build capillary bridges on wet surfaces. Her group’s frog-like robot has four feet and can currently hold half an ounce. The team plans to scale down the prototype to keyhole surgery size.

Steampunk Artist Transforms Ocean Trash: Photos

A carp-like robot was designed to detect pipeline leaks and help lay communication cable.
Engineers from the National University of Singapore used real carp as their inspiration to design two fish-like autonomous underwater vehicles that could detect pipeline leaks and help lay communication cable. Both have flexible fins and internal ballast systems. One is nearly five feet long and can dive down suddenly. The other is smaller, more agile and swims near the surface. Robotic fish are also being eyed for military uses. The Department of Homeland Security is funding a robotic tuna development called the BIOSwimmer that could look for suspicious activities around marine vessels.

VIDEO: Robotic Fish Helps Monitor Waters


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