Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

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Collective behaviour: the AquaJellies show how autonomous actions of individual systems can result in an overall system

Swarm behavior is a concept familiar to many of us. A prime example is the tight-knit groups of fish, otherwise known as schools, we’ve mostly all seen when we were first introduced to the world of biology. Fish are able to gather into amazing patterns and seemingly move as one throughout the watery depths. This ability to self-organize has inspired scientists to develop robots that are able to collaboratively navigate waters in a similar manner and fight pollution.

The company Festo has developed a robot called AquaJelly that is able to autonomously navigate in groups using infrared sensors. When one of these artificial jellyfish comes into close proximity with another, it senses this and changes course to avoid a collision. As one jellyfish “decides” what action to take next, others will begin to follow it just as seen in natural swarm behavior. These robots are able to monitor the conditions of the water around them such as temperature and depth, and the data can be reviewed from a smartphone (1, 2). These robots can be used for the purposes of wastewater treatment and to make waterworks management more efficient.

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are also in the process of creating autonomous underwater explorers (AUEs) that they would also like to use in the future to monitor water conditions after oil spills and other pollutants are introduced (3).

(1)http://www.festo.com/net/SupportPortal/Files/293541/Festo_AquaJellies_2-0_en.pdf

(2) http://www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/9772_10378.htm#id_10378

(3) “Naturally Robotic.” Discover 29.8 (2008): 12. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

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