In our lifetime, the ocean has remained untamed and unexplored. “Modern Day” technology has only been able to come so far in venturing out to sea and to the world below the surface. However, in the past 10 years this has all been changed. With research being done throughout the world studying the movement and anatomy of fish, the gap between the surface and the sea floor could be speedily lessening. For years humans have marveled at the speed and grace of most marine life. The lack of drag, the force propulsion, and the ability to live at such impossible depths have been forever the envy of submarines and sea explorers. After years of observing these incredible functions, researchers are finally beginning to mimic and apply these characteristics to marine technology. These robo-fish hold the potential to make underwater exploration far more accessible, safer, and more efficient due to their naturalistic design.
The first two notable robotic fish were the original robotuna and a fish made by Mitsubishi. While neither of these had ocean exploration in mind while they were being innovated, they did lay the bricks down for the road that would lead to today’s strides forward. The first of the two mentioned fish was created purely to study how fish swim. Through this marvel, we were able to better understand just how fish are able to propel themselves forward in even the harshest of ocean storms or currents. Researchers tried a genetic algorithm to program the fish in a way where it could analyze the vortices to better stabilize. Early incarnations worked poorly but as the system evolved the RoboTuna's abilities improved. Visualization techniques showed that the system had evolved so that the RoboTuna was taking advantage of vortices that it created. A swish of its tail one way creating a vortex, which was then used by a swish the other way - propelling it off the vortex it had created. This technique not only helps to with normal swimming but explains the impressive standing start speeds of real tuna. This prototype is depicted below.
The second of the two mentioned robo fish was actually created in an attempt to recreate an extinct fish. The intentions were to try to understand if a robotic fish could be introduced to an ecosystem in place of an extinct species to better deal with the missing piece of that specific ecosystem. This fish model had some navigation issues, taking an exceptional amount of time to warm up and begin swimming, the fish would continue at some point until it swam into a wall. However, this fish was not manually controlled, and ran off tank sensors and exceptionally low energy. The fish never reached open water and was contained to the sensor tank. Further research is being completed to better adapt these robotic fish to open water where they will navigate freely. (Mitsubishi creates life-like robot fish 1)
One of the newer and more advanced robo-fish in the world today is known as Charlie the Tuna. Measured at 52 inches...