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Meet “Smoky,” the Robot Fish

German scientists are looking at how fish move through water to see if technology can be adapted to make shipping more friendly to underwater habitats.


Photo courtesy TU Darmstadt

A team of researchers at Technische Universität Darmstadt analyzed videos of fish’s motions and then developed a prototype fish robot that duplicated them, and are now testing it using the locomotional patterns of various species of fish in order to refine it and improve its efficiency, the university said in a statement today.

“Their fish robot, dubbed ‘Smoky,’ consists of a ‘skeleton’ composed of ten segments enshrouded in an elastic skin that are free to move relative to one another and made to undergo snaking motions similar to those of fish by waterproof actuators. Including its tail fin, the fish robot, which is a 5:1 scale model of a gilt-head sea bream, is 1.50 meters [about 5 feet] long.”

The researchers hope that use of their fish robot for ship propulsion will help prevent shoreline erosion and the underminings of submarine installations caused by ships’ screws, Darmstadt said. “The fish robot’s ‘soft’ drive action should also prevent the churning up of seabeds and riverbeds and its effects on marine plants and aquatic-animal populations.”

Watch this video of Smoky, the fish robot. Narration in German.

More on robotic fish:

A robotic fish developed by scientists from Essex University is put through its paces in a special tank at the London Aquarium. It works via sensors and has autonomous navigational control.

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