Researchers from Beihang University, Imperial College London, and Swiss Federal Laboratories have developed an underwater drone with a suction disc inspired by remora fish. This design not only helps the unmanned aerial vehicle conserve energy, but also allows it to hitchhike. In other words, the ability to fly, swim, and attach to surfaces in both air as well as water, seamlessly switching between the two.
Its hydrostatically enhanced hitchhiking device was inspired by the morphology of a remora disc, which is functional in both the air and water. This drone has separate lamellar compartments for redundant sealing, allowing it to achieve adhesion and hitchhike with only partial disc attachment. Passively morphing propellers unfold in the air and fold underwater in just 0.35-seconds for seamless mode switching. Combine this with AI and the possibilities are endless, just like how this algorithm removes water from underwater images.
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In field tests, we show that the robot can record video in both media and move objects across the air/water boundary in a mountain stream and the ocean. We envision that this study can pave the way for future robots with autonomous biological detection, monitoring, and tracking capabilities in a wide variety of aerial-aquatic environments,” said the researchers.