Stingrays inspire unmanned deep sea vehicles

Researchers at University at Buffalo and Harvard University are studying stingrays to find out how their unique movement and shape allows them to glide through the water so effortlessly. The findings will be used to design more efficient and agile unmanned underwater vehicles for exploring deep sea spots or even clean up and rescue vehicles.

“Most fish wag their tails to swim. A stingray's swimming is much more unique, like a flag in the wind,” says Richard Bottom, a University at Buffalo mechanical engineering graduate student participating in the research.

© Richard Bottom

The researchers used computational fluid dynamics to map the flow of water around live stingrays to discover how their shape and movements are so optimal for underwater movement. The studies have discovered the importance of the leading edge vortex in underwater locomotion, which is also one of the most important aspects in flight.

University at Buffalo states, "The vortices on the waves of the stingrays’ bodies cause favorable pressure fields — low pressure on the front and high pressure on the back — which push the ray forward. Because movement through air and water are similar, understanding vortices are critical."

The researchers will now start studying many types of stingrays and how their bodies and movements differ.

Tags: Biomimicry | Oceans | Technology