Turtle Robot Helps Undersea Archaeologists Explore Tight Spaces

A researcher has developed a turtle-like robot for undersea archaeology. The robot, currently dubbed U-CAT, is small, pill-shaped, and equipped with four swiveling flippers or paddles for hover-class maneuverability. By flipping its flippers, the U-CAT can inch forward, backward, up, down, left or right, capturing video all the while.

The U-CAT was conceived by Taavi Salumäe at the Tallinn University of Technology's Centre for Biorobotics. The device is a case of biomimetics, a design field that takes cues from biological organisms to address human goals. In this case, the robot is based on the turtle, which itself is highly maneuverable in water.

"The so called biomimetic robots, robots based on animals and plants, is an increasing trend in robotics where we try to overcome the technological bottlenecks by looking at alternative technical solutions provided by nature," said the Centre for Biorobotics' Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa.

It operates remotely without a physical tether. Its compactness lets it sneak into cramped spaces. And unlike propeller-driven underwater robots, the U-CAT doesn't kick up dust. These attributes will let researchers see what is going on in, say, a shipwreck before committing further resources to further exploration or excavation.

The U-CAT is notably inexpensive to produce compared to other robots with similar missions. If it gets stuck somewhere, just deploy another one and continue the exploration. "This way it won't bankrupt the archeologist," Kruusmaa told Discovery News.

SOURCE: National Monitor