Crabs know their way around the ocean floor. These crawling creatures live in all the waters of the world, so if we want to learn something new about underwater exploration, it might be a good idea to take some cues from them. And this is precisely what a research team at the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology did.
After two years of investigation, the team, led by Bong-Huan Jun, developed Crabster CR 200, a car-sized robot inspired by crustaceans and designed to survey shipwrecks and other areas of scientific interest.
But why bother creating a crab robot – although let’s admit it: a giant mechanical crab needs no justification – when we have some pretty advanced conventional ROVs that have already proven their reliability in most kinds of underwater exploration?
The main reason is that underwater exploration sometimes requires navigating in turbulent waters where strong currents sometimes reach 1.5 meters per second – enough to destabilise any conventional ROV. In addition, propulsion systems used in such vehicles tend to raise clouds of disturbed sediment, often completely obstructing the view of the ocean floor.
Hopefully, Crabster will become a game changer. Crawling on its six articulated legs, this sea monster can resist strong currents and does not disturb the ocean floor as much as other ROVs. Crabster’s four rear legs have four degrees of freedom, while the front two have six. And although the front legs and currently only used for walking, the researchers envision them as transformable manipulator arms, which can serve to grab objects of interest within 1.8 meters reach and store them in a front compartment, fashioned as an extendable crab mouth. With many legs Crabster also has many eyes: the robot is equipped with 11 optical cameras as well as with sonars – all of which makes him the real king of the ocean floor.
Crabster remains in the testing stage and, as you can see in the video, is still rather slow and cannot operate without a power cord. Last summer the robot was put to test in natural conditions for the first time, and soon we might see Crabster explore a real 12th Century shipwreck in the Yellow Sea.