Emulating how krill swim to build a robotic platform for ocean navigation — ScienceDaily | Science & Technology

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Picture a network of interconnected, autonomous robots working together in a coordinated dance to navigate the pitch-black surroundings of the ocean while carrying out scientific surveys or search-and-rescue missions.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, a team led by Brown University researchers has presented important first steps in building these types of underwater navigation robots. In the study, the researchers outline the design of a small robotic platform called Pleobot that can serve as both a tool to help researchers understand the krill-like swimming method and as a foundation for building small, highly maneuverable underwater robots.

Pleobot is currently made of three articulated sections that replicate krill-like swimming called metachronal swimming. To design Pleobot, the researchers took inspiration from krill, which are remarkable aquatic athletes and display mastery in swimming, accelerating, braking and turning. They demonstrate in the study the capabilities of Pleobot to emulate the legs of swimming krill and provide new insights on the fluid-structure interactions needed to sustain steady forward swimming in krill.

According to the study, Pleobot has the potential to allow the scientific community to understand how to take advantage of 100 million years of evolution to engineer better robots for ocean navigation.

“Experiments with organisms are challenging and unpredictable,” said Sara Oliveira Santos, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown’s School of Engineering and lead author of the new study. “Pleobot allows us unparalleled resolution and control to investigate all the aspects of krill-like swimming that help it excel at maneuvering underwater. Our goal was to design a comprehensive tool to understand krill-like swimming, which meant including all the details that make krill such athletic swimmers.”

The effort is a collaboration between Brown researchers in the lab of Assistant Professor of Engineering Monica Martinez Wilhelmus and…

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