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The research team unveils "Tunabot", the first robotic fish to keep up with a tuna



  The UVA engineering team unveils
the development of a high-frequency experimental platform that explores the performance of swimming fish. Picture credits: Haibo Dong

Mechanical Engineers at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering, in collaboration with biologists from Harvard University, have developed the first robotic fish that has been shown to mimic the speed and motion of live yellowfin tuna.

The peer-reviewed publication "Tuna Robotics: An Experimental High-Frequency Platform for Exploring the Performance Space of Floating Fish" was published on September 1

8, 2019 in Science Robotics .

Led by Hilary Bart-Smith, professor of engineering and aerospace engineering at UVA Engineering, the robotic tuna project was born out of a five-year, $ 7.2 million multidisciplinary research initiative from the university, which sponsored the United States Office of Naval Research Bart-Smith commissioned the study Fast and efficient swimming of various fish. The goal of Bart-Smith's project is to better understand the physics of fish-driving. This research could ultimately influence the development of the next generation of submersibles powered by fish-like systems better than propellers.

Underwater robots are also useful in a number of applications, such as defense, marine resource exploration, infrastructure inspection and recreation.

However, before bio-inspired propulsion systems can become viable for public and commercial use in manned and unmanned vehicles, researchers must be able to be reliable Understand how fish and other creatures move through water.




A video of the Tunabot floating in a river tank. Picture credits: Zhu et al., Sci. Robot. 4, eaax4615 (2019)

"Our goal was not just to build a robot, we wanted to understand the science of biological swimming," said Bart-Smith. "Our goal was to build something where we could test hypotheses to find out what makes biological swimmers so fast and efficient."

The team first had to study the biological mechanisms of high performance swimmers. Harvard biology professor George V. Lauder and his research team have accurately measured the swimming dynamics of yellowfin tuna and mackerel. Based on these data, Bart-Smith and her team, research scientist Jianzhong "Joe" Zhu and Ph.D. The student Carl White constructed a robot that not only moved underwater like a fish, but also hit its tail fast enough to reach approximately the same speed.

Then they compared the robot they called "Tunabot" with live specimens.

"There are many papers on fish robots, but most of them do not contain much biological data, and I think this paper is unique in the quality of both the robotic work and the biological data that has been put together into one paper," said Lauder.




A video of the tunabot tested in the flow tank with particle image velocity measurement, a laser-optical measurement technology for flow measurement. Picture credits: Zhu et al., Sci. Robot. 4, eaax4615 (2019)

"What is so fantastic about the results we present in this article are the similarities between the biology and the robotic platform, not only in terms of swimming kinematics but also in terms of the floating kinematics Relationship between them speed, clock frequency and energy performance, "said Bart-Smith. "These comparisons give us confidence in our platform and its ability to better understand the physics of biological swimming."

The team's work builds on the strengths of UVA engineering in autonomous systems. The Department of Aerospace Engineering participates in UVA Engineering's Link Lab for cyber-physical systems, which focuses on smart cities, smart healthcare systems and autonomous systems, including autonomous vehicles.

The project Tunabot is a result of Bart-Smith's second, a competitive multidisciplinary university research initiative of the Office of Naval Research; In 2008, Bart-Smith received a $ 6.5 million prize for the development of an underwater robot modeled after a manta ray.




Video of the tailfin of Tunabot and its movement. Picture credits: Zhu et al., Sci. Robot. 4, eaax4615 (2019)

Tunabot's testing takes place in a large laboratory in the Engineering and Aerospace Building at UVA Engineering, in a flow-through tank that occupies about a quarter of the space, and at Harvard University in a similar facility. The eyeless, finless replica is about 10 inches long; The biological equivalent can grow up to two meters long. A fishing line keeps the robot steady while a green laser light cuts the center line of the plastic fish. The laser measures the fluid movement that the robot emits each time its manufactured tail is swept. As the stream of water in the river tank becomes faster, the tail and the entire body of the tunabot move in a rapid bending pattern, much like a living yellowfin tuna floats.

There are really great systems that others have developed, but the data is often inconsistent in terms of the selection and presentation of the measurements. They are currently only the current state of robotics. Our article on the Tunabot is important because our comprehensive performance data sets standards very high, "said White.

<img src =" https: //scx1.b-cdn .net / csz / news / 800/2019 / 5d82948ea116d.jpg "alt =" The research team unveils "Tunabot", the first robotic fish to keep up with a tuna. Picture credits: Zhu et al., Sci. Robot. 4, eaax4615 (2019)

The relationship between biology and robotics is circular, Lauder said. "One of the reasons we have a successful research program in this area is the great interaction between biologists and roboticists." Each discovery in one branch informs the other, a kind of feedback loop that constantly evolves science and technology.

"We do not believe that biology has become the best solution," said Bart-Smith. "These fish had a long time to come to a solution that would allow them to survive, feed, multiply, and not be eaten. Without these requirements, we can focus solely on mechanisms and traits that we have promote higher performance and speed, higher efficiency, our ultimate goal is to outnumber biology, how can we build something that looks like biology but swims faster than anything you see out there in the ocean? "


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Further information:
J. Zhu el al., "Tuna Robotics: An Experimental Radio Frequency Platform Exploring the Performance Space of Floating Fish", Science Robotics (2019). robotics.sciencemag.org/lookup…/scirobotics.aax4615

Provided by
College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of Virginia

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Research team unveils "Tunabot", the first robotic fish to keep up with a tuna (2019, September 18)
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