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NUS develops robot fish with autonomous 3D movement

Posted: 28 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:autonomous underwater vehicle? 2D?

This has been most challenging as fish use a lot of different muscles to move, and many actuators are required to enable the robot to move in the same manner.

"Some fish can achieve almost 180 degree turning in a small turning radius through bending their body while traditional underwater vehicles have a much larger turning radius. Hence it is quite a feat for us to achieve this movement in our robot fish," added Ren.

Other challenges included waterproofing the fish body, the motor and the control box. The fins and tails also need to be flexible and the team decided to use very fine (1mm) acrylic board for these. Buoyancy and balance for the robot is maintained by using plastic foams attached to both sides. For the diving mechanism, their robot fish is equipped with an internal ballast system to change density. The system is sophisticated enough to enable the fish to dive suddenly, as well as to the precise depth intended.

The team has constructed two fish robots. The larger prototype is about 1.5m in length, weighing about 10kg and it can dive to a depth of 1.8m. The smaller robot is about 60cm long and weighs a mere 1.5kg. It is developed for investigation on 2D motion control and motion planning in a small place, and it can only swim at water surface.

"To my knowledge, the world's smallest fish robot is one about 12.7cm in length. It was designed by MIT for specific military purpose and could go to a depth of 1.5m," said Ren.

Underwater vehicles have long gone past the days of the submarines, said Fan. Fish robots, besides being a micro submarine, can also be fully autonomous and can be programmed to perform many difficult and dangerous tasks.

The team hopes to make their robot fish even smaller and more realistic. Said Fan, "We intend to equip it with more sensors such as GPS and video camera to improve autonomous 3D movement. We also intend to test out our fish with more challenging tasks such as object detection."

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