This robotic tuna is the final product of a team of students from the Olin College of Engineering. Julia Buck, Gui Cavalcanti, Paul Mandel, Erin Schumacher, Sarah Shiplett and Michael Taylor developed this robot under the guidance of Professor David Barrett over the 2008-2009 school year for a SCOPE (senior capstone) project sponsored by Boston Engineering. This effort was part of a Phase I SBTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) grant from the Office of Naval Research, held jointly by Olin College and Boston Engineering.
The robot is a hybrid of the design features of a regular submarine (i.e. dive planes, thruster-powered locomotion, and a rigid hull) combined with the flexible keel of a biological organism. This marriage produces a vehicle that can both move through the water quickly and turn on a dime, a set of traits not usually seen in underwater vehicles of any type. The tuna is used as a biological model because its natural swimming gait holds the front 2/3 of the fish's body rigid, while the rear 1/3 moves; this allows the robot to utilize the front 2/3 of its body as a rigid, watertight hull, while the rear 1/3 is converted into a flooded flexible structure. The robot uses hydraulic actuators to move the flexible tail structure from side to side and electric motors for dive plane control.
Boston Engineering has since developed the project further into the GhostSwimmer and BIOSwimmer robots.
More information is available in our final report.