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Energy-Efficient Turtle Robot Nears Completion

The Robot Turtle Team: Bhuneshwar Prasad, S K Panda and Abhra Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy of the National University of Singapore.
The Robot Turtle Team: Bhuneshwar Prasad, S K Panda and Abhra Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy of the National University of Singapore.

Researchers at the University of Singapore are putting the final touches on a robot that can dive vertically — like a real turtle — just by using its front and hind limb gait movements.

“Our turtle robot does not use a ballast system which is commonly used in underwater robots for diving or sinking functions. Without this ballast system, (the robot) is much smaller and lighter, enabling it to carry bigger payloads so that it can perform more complicated tasks such as surveillance, water quality monitoring in Singapore reservoir or energy harvesting for long endurance,” says the project’s leader, S K Panda. “Being able to do a dynamic dive or sinking vertically means that it can also enter vertical tunnels or pipes in the seabed with very small diameters.”

Being smaller and lighter also makes the bot more energy efficient. Additionally, the robot is also able to self-charge without returning to a base station. Panda says it’s also agile and able to turn sharp corners with small radius, without losing speed.

He one day imagines a swarm of “tiny turtles which communicate with each other and act collaboratively to perform their duties,” crawling into tiny places where bigger vessels can’t venture.

The same team has designed and developed four other underwater prototypes — a spherical robot that mimics a puffer fish in structure but uses a jet propulsion technique similar to jellyfishes and squids; and three robotic fishes of different morphologies.

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