London: Researchers have developed a highly manoeuvrable underwater robot turtle to penetrate shipwrecks.
Shipwrecks are currently explored by divers, but this is an expensive and time consuming procedure and often dangerous.
The robot, called U-CAT, is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to human divers.
The robot`s locomotion principle is similar to sea turtles. Independently driven four flippers make the robot highly manoeuvrable; it can swim forward and backward, up and down and turn on spot in all directions.
Manoeuvrability is a desirable feature when inspecting confined spaces such as shipwrecks. The robot carries an onboard camera and the video footage can be later used to reconstruct the underwater site.
"U-CAT is specifically designed to meet the end-user requirements. Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion," said Taavi Salumae, the designer of the U-CAT concept and researcher in Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia.
"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," Salumae said.
"The so called biomimetic robots, robots based on animals and plants, is an increasing trend in robotics where we try to overcome the technological bottlenecks by looking at alternative technical solutions provided by nature," said Maarja Kruusmaa, a Head of Centre for Biorobotics.
Researchers will now show the U-CAT robot in London Science Museum, operating in an aquarium.