Researchers in the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London have developed a bio-inspired robot that can propel itself out of water. Led by Mirko Kovac, the team published a study in Science Robotics on September 11 that describes the propelling and gliding features of the robot, which can fly up to 26 meters. Kovac’s group was inspired by animals such as fish, squid, and birds that use propulsion to break through the water’s surface and glide through the air, a tricky task given that water is three orders of magnitude denser than air.
To generate enough power to leap out of the water, the robot is equipped with a calcium carbide powder that mixes with water to produce acetylene gas in a combustion chamber. As the gas ignites, it pushes water out of the chamber, creating a stream that lifts the robot. The team tested the gadget in different environments and showed that it could propel itself out of choppy waters in a wave tank.
“These kinds of low-power, tether-free robots could be really useful in environments that are normally time-and resource-intensive to monitor, including after disasters such as floods or nuclear accidents,” says first author Raphael Zufferey in a press release.
R. Zufferey et al., “Consecutive aquatic jump-gliding with a water-reactive fuel,” doi:10.1126/scirobotics.aax7330, Sci Robot, 2019.
Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.