Researchers invent robotic fish

Researchers invent robotic fish
Copyright 2019 CNN
Researchers create a robotic fish to better understand fish movement.

Oh, this guy? Don’t mind him, he’s just a normal fish, blending in with his normal fish friends. He’s definitely not a robotic yellowfin tuna designed to mimic unique swimming movements.

The creation of Tunabot was led by a team from the University of Virginia, and the wiggly little guy could help us learn more about the mechanics of fish movement. If all goes well, Tunabots could also be used for things like underwater surveillance.

Look at Tunabot go!

Lead researcher Hilary Bart-Smith and her team chose to model their robotic fish after tuna and mackerels because both fish types, under the same family of Scombridae, are fast and efficient swimmers. They beat their tailfin rapidly from side to side to gain forward motion. The speed of their movements is something of a new frontier for fish-like robotics, which typically mimic slower fish movements.

“The Tunabot can achieve a maximum tail beat frequency of 15 hertz, which corresponds to a swimming speed of 4.0 body lengths per second,” their research reads. According to the data, published in the journal Science Robotics, Tunabot’s speed surpasses that of other swimming robots. (It’s still not as fast as real tuna, but nobody’s perfect.)

“These results highlight the capabilities of high-frequency biological swimming and lay the foundation to explore a fish-like performance space for bio-inspired underwater vehicles,” the research concludes.

CNN has reached out to the researchers via email for comment.

Bart-Smith told the NewScientist that the Tunabot could be eventually altered to accommodate sensors, allowing it to do things like examine underwater operations — or even be turned into a fishy spy.

The possibilities are endless.