Eel Robots Ideal For Naval Warfare

A team of researchers from Singapore led by Jianxin Xu recently debuted a robotic eel design prototype that could signal the future of undersea warfare.


(Eel robot prototype)

“Anguilliform [eel like] fish consume less energy when on a long distance journey than regular autonomous underwater vehicles,” Xu told Defense One. “They are highly maneuverable and flexible, making them more suitable than Gliders for navigating small spaces… The noiseless propulsion is another advantage” for the military, he says. “They’re less detectable than robot subs that propel themselves the same way as conventional subs.”

Xu’s design represents a breakthrough robotic fish that effectively mimic the rather unique way that eels and other anguilliform fish swim...

Several researchers—writing in the journal Nature in the year 2000—found that European eels are able to migrate from Europe to the Sargasso Sea in the West Indies on almost no food, suggesting that anguilliform swimming conserves more energy than previously thought.

Anguilliform swimming displaces water evenly compared to thunniform swimming... That smoothness could make some sea drones less detectable than others to future highly sensitive ship sensors.

Eel bots can explore difficult to navigate reefs, hulls and undersea geological formations in a way that other fish types can’t. Xu says that future prototypes of his robot will require less and less guidance to operate. They’ll self-navigate through difficult or dark crawl spaces, which also means fewer operators presiding over more robots, potentially making them even more cost efficient for the Navy.

“Currently our anguilliform fish swim by using exogenous sensing information, namely, external cameras,” he said. “Since we have developed a motion controller and motion library for the prototype, by installing environmental detecting sensors such as infrared or sonar, the robotic fish can carry out tasks in an autonomous manner.”

Let's face it, eel robots are also more terrifying. Fans of the swimming robot terminators from the 2009 film Terminator Salvation were efficient underwater guardians.


(Swimming robots from Terminator Salvation)

SF fans may also recall Murray Leinster's excellent 1942 short story The Wabbler, which features a robotic undersea munition with eel-like mobility.

...The Wabbler lay in its place, with its tenfoot tail coiled neatly above its lower end, and waited with a sort of deadly patience...

The Wabbler leaned infinitesimally toward the shore. Presently its flexible tail ceased to be curved where it lay upon the ooze. It straightened out. Then the Wabbler moved. Shoreward...
(Read more about Leinster's Wabbler)

Via DefenseOne.

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