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Tunabot: a robotic fish that mimics yellowfin tuna

A group of engineers from the University of Virginia recognized what the press release defines as the first robotic fish to mimic the speed and motion of yellowfin tuna. The study published in Science Robotics describes this project, which was created to better understand the physics of fish propulsion.

The data that can be obtained with this robot will be used to build the next generations of underwater vehicles that will become more efficient in terms of propulsion and more similar to fish. “Our goal was to build something on which we could test hypotheses to determine what makes biological swimmers so fast and efficient,” reports Hilary Bart-Smith, professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at American University and one of the authors of the study.

However, the researchers believe that such an underwater robot could also be useful for other applications, from defence to marine exploration to the inspection of underwater infrastructures. The robot, called “Tunabot”, moves like a fish and also has a tail. It is slightly more than 25 cm long and can therefore be considered as a version in yellowfin tone, a fish that can exceed two meters.

In terms of swimming kinematics, this robotic fish is very similar to its biological counterpart. The researchers’ goal, however, as Bart-Smith himself reports, is “to overcome biology. How can we build something that looks like biology but floats faster than anything you see out there in the ocean? ”


Background info and sources:

https://engineering.virginia.edu/news/2019/09/new-paper-published-science-robotics-uva-engineering-led-team-unveils-%E2%80%9Ctunabot%E2%80%9D-first

https://robotics.sciencemag.org/content/4/34/eaax4615

Image source:

https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/71d8bc4/2147483647/strip/true/crop/715×477+67+0/resize/1160×774!/quality/90/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fassets.newatlas.com%2Fc4%2F2d%2F22f7cab340068389ed8b037edb98%2Fscreen-shot-2019-09-20-at-10.26.57%20AM.jpg

Kelly Owen

Kelly majored in English Literature and is responsible for assisting in proofreading, editing and research, as well as for web design and the maintenance of this website. Beyond her outstanding writing skills, she has like the rest of us a passion for science and science reporting. She is an avid reader of many scientific journals and magazines, especially Scientific American. In her spare time she also enjoys reading fiction and hopes to complete her own novel in 2020.
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