Robot swims and soars through the air using water as propulsion

Scientists at Imperial College London have created a new bio-inspired robot that takes inspiration from flying fish. The robot can propel itself out of the water and glide through the air. The challenge for robots of this sort is the transition from the water to the air.

Researchers say that the water to air transition requires lots of power and that the energy needed is hard to make in a small robot. The Imperial College London researchers created a system that is small and uses water from the environment and 0.2 grams of calcium carbide powder in a combustion chamber to create the force needed for the robot to escape the water.

The system has only one moving part, which is a small pump that brings water in from the environment of the lake or ocean the bot is in. The water and the calcium carbide powder are combined in a reaction chamber to produce burnable acetylene gas. When the gas ignites and expands, it pushes water out as a jet that is able to push the robot out of the water and allow it to glide for up to 26 meters.

Robots such as these are important for measuring conditions in oceans or lakes. The team tested their flying robot in a lab, in a lake, and a wave tank. They found that the flying robot can escape from the water's surface even under "relatively rough conditions."

The team says that the robot can jump multiple times after refilling its water tank. It's able to float on the water's surface and move to take samples from various points. The next step is to work with partners to build new vehicles using advanced materials and start field trials in a range of environments.