Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Biomimetic robotics, rolls off the tongue nicely. What it means is observing nature's solution to a problem, distill it to the basic underlying physics, and apply to an engineering problem.
This brings us to Myrtle, a 500 pound sea turtle at the New England Aquarium who was studied for her maneuverability. Marine animals use their bodies comfortably near obstacles and dynamic flowing water, using this flow to escape predators near reefs. Dolphins use these dynamics to surf on the bow waves of huge ships.

Myrtle's flippers were filmed from various angles and the results applied to this autonomous underwater vehicle called Finnegan. Finnegan has four flippers, known to engineers as flapping foils that roll and twist through the water. It's designed to change direction quickly, make sharp turns and back flips to avoid underwater obstacles. Most AUV's have a single screw propulsion which is great for back and forth surveys in long rows but Finnegan's foils are ideal for using the robot in chaotic conditions such as the waters near reefs. Seals swimming at 2.4 metres per second need only one-tenth of their body length to turn completely around and while Finnegan can't turn anywhere near as fast it's much more able than conventional AUVs.

Unfortunately for ocean research, Finnegan is in dry dock waiting for further funding and another engineer to do more work on its underwater acrobatics. Why do I feel that if it could carry a bomb, the project would be swamped with money?


Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Thank you. I love turtles.

River said...

You're right, war machines, (bomb carriers), anything capable of mass destruction, especially of the stealthy kind,gets more funding than anything else. Pity really. Such machines as Myrtle would be such an advantage in charting the underwaters of the world.

Brian Hughes said...

"Why do I feel that if it could carry a bomb, the project would be swamped with money?"

Because you're a cynical old Witchy, that's why.

Lad Litter said...

She could carry tourists instead and that might generate funding. And a device to stop her from ever leaving any behind on a reef either.

Link said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Link said...


There was a turtle by the name of Myrtle,
She used to swim the seven seas.
Her flippers moved her far more quicker than any manmade auvs.

Jayne said...

Still waiting for the day schools are fully funded and the defence forces have to hold cake stalls for fund raising.

JahTeh said...

Baron, I knew you would be a turtle lover. I barely understood the physics of turtle movement but I stand in awe of Mother Nature.

River, so much in the deep ocean is undiscovered and we still piss around wanting to go to the moon again.

Fleetwood, I'm cynical alright and it's cheaper for the bastards to strap a bomb on a dolphin.

Ladlitter, If I was diving on any reef I wouldn't be more than two feet from the boat. I'm cynical about the last two who were left behind.

Caroline, a poetess instead of a blogger. I think that's a step up.

Jayne, With the carry-on about the SAS pay, they might have to have a cake stall.