FUTURE Technology : Jellyfish Robot in OCEANS
An autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man has been developed.
Nicknamed Cyro, this prototype is a larger model of the robotic jellyfish (named RoboJelly) the same team unveiled in 2012. RoboJelly is roughly the size of a man’s hand, typical of jellyfish found along beaches.
Jellyfish are attractive candidates to mimic because of their ability to consume little energy owing to a lower metabolic rate than other marine species. Additionally, they appear in wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors, allowing for several designs. They also inhabit every major oceanic area of the world and are capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures in both fresh and salt waters. Most species are found in shallow coastal waters, but some have been found in depths 7,000 meters below sea level.
Both robots are part of a multi-university, nationwide $5 million project funded by U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research. The goal is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents.
Student team members from the Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems test a five-foot wide jellyfish-like robot under water at War Memorial Hall. Credit: Amanda Loman, Virginia Tech
Cyro is modeled and named after the jellyfish Cyanea capillata, Latin for Llion’s Manemain jellyfish. Jellyfish, with “Cyro” derived from “cyanea” and “robot.” As with its predecessor, this robot is in the prototype stage, years away from use in waters.
“We hope to improve on this robot and reduce power consumption and improve swimming performance as well as better mimic the morphology of the natural jellyfish,” said
doctoral student in mechanical engineering
Alex Villanueva of Virginia Tech, adding that the project also allows researchers such as himself to better understand aquatic creatures live. “Our hopes for Cyro’s future is that it will help understand how the propulsion mechanism of such animal scales with size.”
There are large differences between the larger and smaller robots. Cyro is powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery, whereas the smaller models were tethered. In both cases, the jellyfish must operate on their own for months or longer at a time as engineers likely won’t be able to capture and repair the robots, or replace power sources.