Taking cues from nature, engineers have built a number of different robots designed after animal counterparts, everything from cheetahs, to snakes to fish. Now, meet U-CAT, the robot sea turtle. Its job: To plunge into the ocean depths and unlock the secrets of various shipwrecks.
U-CAT's main virtues are its small body and high maneuverability — these two qualities are absolutely necessary to investigate the confined spaces of shipwrecks. Rather than use propellers, the robot, which has no connecting cables, moves around using its four independently driven flippers. It can swim up and down, forward and backward, and pivot on the spot.
"Fin propulsors of U-CAT can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck," U-CAT concept designer Taavi Salumäe said in a statement. The turtle also has an onboard video camera, which will allow Salumäe and his colleagues to map out and study the interiors of wrecked ships.
U-CAT is part of ARROWS, a research project that seeks to develop technologies to assist marine archaeologists. U-CAT and other ARROWS tech are slated for field tests in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.
If you're in London this weekend, head on over to the Science Museum and check out its Robot Safari exhibition, where you'll get to meet U-CAT and other robot animals.