Manta rays swim through the water with a flying motion, allowing them to travel quickly with little effort, while also being quite agile. These are qualities that would likewise be desirable in an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV. To that end, scientists from the National University of Singapore have recently developed a manta ray-inspired swimming robot, known as MantaDroid.
Forty different fin designs were tried, before arriving at the current fins made from flexible PVC sheets.
“Unlike other flapping-based underwater robots that replicate manta rays’ flapping kinematics by using multiple motors to achieve active actuations throughout the fins, MantaDroid is powered by only one electric motor on each fin,” says Chew. “We then let the passive flexibility of the fins interact naturally with the fluid dynamics of the water to propel the subsequent motions.”