In Venice, Italy, an international team of scientists have launched an unprecedented exploration project in the waterways beneath the ancient city, using a fleet of autonomous underwater drones. Funded by the EU, this project designed three different bio-inspired robot species. The first is an aPad robot that floats on the water surface, an aFish swimming in shallow waters, and an aMussel robot covering the seabed. The role of these drones is to help analyze and protect the Venetian lagoon’s fragile ecosystem, with each drone having a distinct role. aMussel robots collect and store data, while the aFish transports the information, and the aPad brings this the intel to the surface.
The drones are designed to interact with each other and develop as a “self-organizing, underwater swarm,” using bio-inspired algorithms influenced by nature. Since one of the main challenges is to develop a communication system for the drones, scientists turned to sonar technologies, since conventional resources like WiFi and GPS don’t work well underwater. The researchers ultimately developed their own technologies like equipping the mussel-robot with a special “sense” similar to that developed by certain fish in Africa and South America—a so-called “electric sense” that enables these robots to see in troubled waters and recognize their environment. The robots build up an electric field, which they utilize to communicate with each other in the city’s murky waters, while being able to sense objects and react accordingly. The video below shows an excerpt of these technologies being used out in the field, and sheds a little more light on how these devices obtain the information these researchers are seeking.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)