A new tool in the quest to uncover the secrets contained in sunken shipwrecks takes its cues from an animal that inhabits that same territory. Researchers at the Tallinn University of Technology have developed a biomimetic underwater robot called U-CAT that copies the locomotion of a sea turtle.
The four independently driven flippers make for a super agile robot -- one that can swim forward, backwards, up and down and move in all directions. That maneuverability lets it explore the tight spaces of a shipwreck.
“U-CAT is specifically designed to meet the end-user requirements. Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. Fin propulsors of U-CAT can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck”, says Taavi Salumäe, the designer of the U-CAT concept and researcher in Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology.
The U-CAT is part of an EU-funded initiative called Arrows that supports the development of technologies for underwater archaeology. U-CATs, along with other Arrows technologies, will be tested in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Eventually they will work in cooperation with larger underwater robots and together with image recognition technologies for discovery, identification and reconstruction of underwater sites.
See the U-CAT in action below.