Turtle robot explores ancient undersea ruins

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

turtle robot swimming
Observers watch the U-CAT in action.

The fascinating science of biomimicry studies nature to create advanced technology. For example, fire ants are inspiring self-healing bridges and radar inventors are taking notes on dolphins.

Now, undersea archaeologists who explore sunken ruins can use a robot that moves and looks like an aquatic turtle!

Professor Maarja Kruusmaa, of the Centre for Biorobotics, explains, “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.”

Usually, propeller-driven archaeology technology can get stuck inside tight spaces underwater, costing lots of money to retrieve.  To solve this problem, the wireless U-CAT turtle bot uses flippers to dart around with graceful accuracy, similar to ocean turtles. It’s also super cheap to make, compared to other bots used in these sorts of missions, and Kruusmaa says, “This way it won’t bankrupt the archaeologist.” These U-CATs, developed by the European Union-funded ARROWS project, will first be tested in the Mediterranean Sea and Baltic Sea. It’s not the only turtle bot being developed, either, as scientists from the ETH-Zurich group are creating one called naro-tartaruga.

Images courtesy of Centre for Biorobotics.