Sleek-skinned Cyro can collect data for a range of marine applications (credit AMANDA LOMAN / VIRGINIA TECH)

US team floats idea of 'robo-jellyfish'

A large autonomous robotic jellyfish has been built by US researchers.

The work is part of a $5m project funded by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Centre and the Office of Naval Research that aims to develop self-powered, self-guided devices for surveillance and environmental monitoring, as well as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors and monitoring currents.

Named Cyro, the robot has a rigid support structure and uses direct-current electric motors to control the mechanical arms; these work in conjunction with a jelly-like pulp resembling the mesoglea found in jellyfish to create hydrodynamic movement.

Cyro’s ‘skin’ comprises a layer of sleek silicone placed over a bowl-shaped device containing the robot’s electronic innards.

These simultaneously collect, store, analyse and communicate sensory data.

Cyro is able to ‘swim’ for around four hours, powered by a nickel metal hydride battery.

Its inventors aim to incorporate a form of energy self-generation/harvesting to achieve a swim capability of weeks or months. The device is 1.7m long and weighs 77kg.

“Jellyfish are attractive to mimic because they inhabit every major oceanic area of the world, and are also capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures,” explained Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, and part of the Cyro team.

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