If It Moves Like A Fish, Fish May Follow It To Safety
Wouldn't it be great if robots could lead fish and other wildlife away from the Gulf oil spill before they got a drop of oil on them? A mechanical engineering professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University has a dream that his robot fish can do that and much more.
Maurizio Porfiri's robots are remote-controlled biomimicked fish developed to lead schools of fish. Though his ultimate intention is to use the robot fish to lead real fish out of harms way, like away from power turbines, and to lead flocking birds to new wintering grounds, and even to lead humans to safety when a fire breaks out... his robot fish's first assignment was to lead bait fish in a fish tank. Biomimicking real bait fish leaders, the robotic fish beat their tails faster, milled about, and sped up to get attention.... Soon, they had a following.
Dr. Porfiri will need to model his robots after each species separately, as their leaders have different qualities. His research group studies fish leader formation, intelligence, computing capacity, and the ways they avoid predators. This research will also find application in autonomous vehicle teams like submarines, airplanes and ground vehicles.
The innovative propulsion systems that are developed by biomimicking various fish have led Dr. Porfiri to research energy harvesting in aquatic environments using ionic polymers so the robots can eventually run on energy from eddies and small vibrations under water.
And if saving wildlife from mass death or extinction is not enough of a goal, Dr. Porfini has learned how to develop artificial muscles that would be powered by electromagnetic waves from his robotic fish studies.
It looks like one robotic fish leads to another, and another, and... another.