Researchers at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering led by an Indian origin have unveiled a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds.
The prototype robot, nicknamed Cyro, is a larger model of a robotic jellyfish the same team - headed by Shashank Priya of Blacksburg, Va., and professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech - unveiled in 2012.
The earlier robot, dubbed RoboJelly, is roughly the size of a man's hand, and typical of jellyfish found along beaches.
Both robots are part of a multi-university, nationwide 5-million-dollar project funded by U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research. The goal is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents.
Cyro is modeled and named after the jellyfish Cyanea capillata, Latin for Llion's Manemain jellyfish. Jellyfish, with "Cyro" derived from "cyanea" and "robot." As with its predecessor, this robot is in the prototype stage, years away from use in waters.
A stark difference exists between the larger and smaller robots. Cyro is powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery, whereas the smaller models were tethered, Priya said.
In both cases, the jellyfish must operate on their own for months or longer at a time as engineers likely won't be able to capture and repair the robots, or replace power sources.
"Cyro showed its ability to swim autonomously while maintaining a similar physical appearance and kinematics as the natural species," Priya said, adding that the robot is simultaneously able to collect, store, analyze, and communicate sensory data. This autonomous operation in shallow water conditions is already a big step towards demonstrating the use of these creatures."
"It has been a great experience to finally realize the biomimetic and bio-inspired robotic vehicles. Nature has too many secrets and we were able to find some of them but many still remain. We hope to find a mechanism to continue on this journey and resolve the remaining puzzles," Priya said. (ANI)