Want to look underwater? Use robo-fish

May 29th, 2009 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 29 (IANS) A researcher has developed the first robo-fish Wanda that moves like its natural counterparts and navigates underwater, conducting inspections within confined spaces.
Researcher Scott McGovern of the University of Wollongong created Wanda (wireless aquatic navigator for detection and analysis) seeking out targeted objects. It propels itself forward by an active flexible joint tail fin activated through polymer artificial muscles.

The biggest advantage of this material is the ease with which it mimics the tail fin motion of a fish, said McGovern.

Wanda has more mobile and flexible previous sensing systems; fish-like swimming motions mean better manoeuvrability than conventional propeller driven devices, making such devices ideal for underwater inspections.

“Other advantages of conducting polymers are that they are low voltage, light weight and self-contained. Also as there are no complex moving parts, they have the capacity to be more robust than the traditional materials used,” he said.

The person controlling Wanda can change the direction and speed at which the fish swims. It has a small camera that wirelessly sends real-time video to a computer, and video-imaging software is used to analyse the image for object recognition and detection, initially based on specifications such as colour.

Wanda has been designed to swim and search for a pre-defined colour, which can be also directed towards the targeted object, or detect water quality and pollution levels in catchment areas and dams.

While existing systems detect pollution from stationary points along the catchment, Wanda can swim around and give a true idea of the whole area and can even swim towards and detect the exact point where pollution may be coming from.

It could also be used to detect structural damage in underwater pipes where divers cannot reach, or to map out underwater areas, said a from Wollongong university release.

“We are also looking at ways to make the fish more sophisticated in the future - so the fish can dive to different depths or change direction rapidly - and including other sensors on the body,” McGovern said.

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