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The flying fish robot moves by shooting water from its ass



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This illustration shows the burning away from the robot, which pushes it out of the water.


Air Robotics Laboratory / Imperial College London

Engineers often seek nature for inspiration in creating robots. Just look at the Astro Robot Dog or as an antelope SpaceBok . But robots are not only useful on land. How about a flying fish robot?

A team at the Air Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London in the UK has developed a floating robot that can launch a jet of water from its rear to move through the air.

The robot is shaped like a small plane. A video posted by the college shows his slow motion acrobatics.

What is innovative about this particular robot is its skillful propulsion system. Water and calcium carbide powder are mixed together in a reaction chamber, creating an acetylene gas that ignites, expands and expels water to propel the robot. It's a powerful combination that allows the robot to glide through the air up to 85 feet (26 meters).

"The water-to-air transition is an energy-intensive process that is difficult to achieve on a small scale aircraft that needs to be lightened for flight," said director of the Laboratory for Air Robotics, Mirko Kovac. The only moving part is a pump that mixes water and dust.

Researchers published details of the robot Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. The robot has already been tested in both laboratory and outdoor settings. He dialed a wool tank to see if he could still jump when in rough water conditions.

"These types of low-power, tetra-free robots can be really useful in an environment that is usually intense in monitoring time and resources, including after disasters such as floods or nuclear accidents," commented on the publication by leading author Rafael Zuffer.

Although it is fun to speculate about future robococalypse, this particular robot seems to want to be useful to humans. The development process is ongoing with a view to using the surveillance machine around coral reefs and offshore platforms.

Get out, flying a fish-bot.

Originally published September 11, 12:18 pm PT.


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