US Navy is currently developing robotic fish drones to help with spying. via trove.com
The U.S. Navy is finding Nemo — through a new underwater drone program.
The Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell and Boston Engineering are currently testing an unmanned vehicle is disguised as a tuna fish that will soon be able to swim on its own and collect intelligence. The project is called Project Silent Nemo, named after the Disney movie about a clown fish.
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The 5-foot, 100-pound unmanned underwater vehicle swims and behaves like a bluefin tuna fish, waving its tail back and forth to propel itself. Its developers say the natural swimming motion of fish is less detectable than typical torpedo-shaped drones.
“This is part of a new field of underwater unmanned vehicles that use biomimicry,” project lead Marine Corps Capt. Jerry Lademan told Mashable. “The idea is to use what evolution has already perfected over a couple thousand years, take the best parts of that and make it into a mechanical device.”
Lademan said the project involved essentially “reverse-engineering” the way a tuna fish moves. He said researchers specifically chose the tuna fish for the project because of the way it swims.
“The tuna fish is one of the few aquatic animals that uses just half its body to propel itself forward,” he said. “With most fish, the whole body is involved. So the biology of it makes sense for an unmanned underwater vehicle, because it’s much easier to design a UUV where only the back half moves.”
He said the project is still in the research and development stages, but ultimately, they hope the very realistic “fish” will be able to be sent on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
“We are still working to develop its propulsion technology because really it is kind of breaking new ground,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anything similar to this, so there are a lot of technical challenges to overcome before we can really make it fully operational.”
The project has cost about $1 million so far, according to the Daily Press, and the drone could be fully operational as early as next year.