‘Thinking Robotic Sea Turtle’ for surveillance developed by NUS team

The India-origin researchers at the National University of
Singapore (NUS) have developed a turtle robot which is capable of performing
complicated tasks such as surveillance and energy harvesting.

In the near future, it would be possible to produce a
swarm of autonomous tiny robotic sea turtles and fishes for example, to perform
hazardous missions such as detecting nuclear wastes underwater or other tasks
too dangerous for humans, researchers said. In the underwater robotic world,
turtle robots are among the most manoeuvrable, researchers said.


 Image credit: NUS research team
The National University of Singapore (NUS) team’s turtle
robot, besides being manoeuvrable, can also go about determinedly performing
what it is set out to do, while being able to react to exigencies and
obstacles. The team led by Associate Professor S K Panda is putting the final
touches to a robotic sea turtle which could move about underwater, including
diving to deeper depths vertically, like a real turtle, by just using its front
and hind limb gait movements.
“Our turtle robot does not use a ballast system which is
commonly used in underwater robots for diving or sinking functions,” said
Panda. “Without this ballast system, it is much smaller and lighter, enabling
it to carry bigger payloads so that it can perform more complicated tasks such
as surveillance, water quality monitoring in Singapore reservoir or energy
harvesting for long endurance. “Being able to do a dynamic dive or sinking
vertically means that it can also enter vertical tunnels or pipes in the seabed
with very small diameters,” said Panda.
Being smaller and lighter would also enhance its energy
efficiency. The NUS turtle robot is also able to self-charge, further reducing
the need for it to return to base station for recharging. It is agile and able
to turn sharp corners with small radius, without losing speed.
Researcher Abhra Roy Chowdhury said the team has designed
and developed four other underwater prototypes – a spherical robot that mimics
a puffer fish in structure but uses a jet propulsion technique similar to
jellyfishes and squids; and three robotic fishes of different morphologies.
These robots are scalable, modular and possess stealth
(ability to avoid detection) features. “If need be, we can actually combine all
their merits in a single robot,” Chowdhury added.
Another member of the team, Bhuneshwar Prasad, has also
developed a spherical robot. This robot can be used for oceanic surveys,
inspections of pipe and cable, inspection of a ship hull or a propeller’s
shaft, for example.

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