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April 17, 2017 AT 4:00 am

Could these small robots help monitor coral reefs?

Dims

Check out these awesome robotic manta rays created to monitor our oceans coral reefs. Shared from engadget.

Chinese researchers have crafted a soft manta ray-inspired bot that could surveil the seas without harming nature in the process. Rather than rely on stiff metal or plastic for its body, the artificial swimmer is made out of a combination of flexible polymer (for its muscles) and silicone (for most everything else) that shouldn’t damage sea life. And importantly, there’s no motor — the ray gets around using a lithium battery whose cyclic voltage causes the muscles to bend, flapping fins in the process. Electromagnets help steer the tail.

At a speed of less than 2.4 inches per second, this faux manta isn’t about to compete with real fish for performance (others its size tend to travel four times faster). That’s still twice as fast as the previous best for a soft untethered robot, however, and it can survive in temperatures as cold as 33F and as hot as 165F. If there’s a real drawback to the current design, it’s the 3-hour battery life — this won’t stay underwater for too long.

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