Bio-inspired Manta Ray Robot

About the Project

This project aims to use the efficiency of nature to create a nimble Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) with a considerable service life. To do this, the team turned to its attention to a master of efficiency in our oceans, the manta ray. These open water creatures can glide for miles, and when they do flap their fins, a single stroke can carry them many more body lengths than other animals.

The Background highlights the rationale behind biomimicry, and the vital roles AUVs play in the scientific community. These aspects heavily influenced the creation of this project and the majority of our design choices.

To achieve our goal, we drew inspiration from the PneuNets soft actuator. The team has designed a fin that will "flap" as the channels inside are pressurized and depressurized. All parts will be custom made by the team, however, the fin is the crucial component in the design. The fin will be molded from silicone and have an inextensible layer restricting the range of motion, acting much like a muscle would. Prototype fins will be tested for pressure to actuation, percent deformation, and rang of motion. Once all components are working, the prototype will have a wet test run where its swimming speed, efficiency and natural motion will be accessed.