A new marine robot, called Sepios, has recently joined the ever-growing robotic animal kingdom. Built by a group of students from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, this biomimetic robot was inspired by yet another marine creature, namely a cuttlefish. The interesting thing is that Sepios can actually do better than the creature that inspired it.
Cuttlefish have two elongated fins that produce a beautiful undulating motion and allow these animals to move forward and backward, turn on the spot, or hover. Sepios has four such fins. The extra pair makes it possible for the robot to propel itself in any direction, including straight up and down, and rotate on any axis. Simply put, Sepios is omnidirectional, which cannot be said about the cuttlefish.
The fins are driven by the total of 36 servo motors and can reach the maximum speed of 1.8 km/h.
Perhaps the robot’s biggest advantage is that its fins cause very little turbulence and allow for a greater control as opposed to many other underwater vehicles. Sepios, for example, can easily navigate through patches of sea grass without leaving a mess behind.
Such properties suggest that Sepios will come in handy for marine life observation. The video below certainly proves the point, as Sepios seems to get on quite well with real fish.
Sepios is not the first biomimetic robot to use undulating propulsion. Its predecessors include this knifefish robot developed by researchers at Northwestern University and another cuttlefish robot from NextGen Aeronautics. Still, Sepios is the first to feature four undulating fins, making it the only truly omnidirectional vehicle that uses this kind of propulsion.
The amount of robots inspired by various marine critters has increased tremendously in the past years. Various types of fish, mollusks and even jellyfish consistently provide scientists with new ideas.
You may also be interested in this recent announcement from the National University of Singapore, which is developing a whole range of bio-inspired marine robots, including a smart robotic sea turtle.