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Surprising Science

Sorry, Charlie: Robot Tuna Commissioned By Homeland Security

Borrowing from nature, an engineering company has created a robot that mimics the nimble maneuvers and speed of real tuna.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

The US Department of Homeland Security has put up funds for the Boston Engineering Corporation to create a robot made in the shape of a tuna. It has fins and a flexible tail just like its biological namesake, and with them, it can swim fast and move quickly. It can also fit itself into tight spaces, making it an ideal choice for underwater missions, some of which include “exploring the flooded areas of ships, inspecting oil tankers or patrolling U.S. harbors to watch out for suspicious activity.” It can be controlled by a human with a laptop, but it also contains its own computer, which it uses for navigation and communications, among other things.

What’s the Big Idea?

The robot tuna — officially named the BIOSwimmer — is just one example of biomimetics, which is the study of biological systems for use in engineering and design of artificial objects. Tuna aren’t the only sea animals being replicated, either: “Even squirmy starfish, worms and octopuses have inspired squishy, color-changing robots capable of both camouflage and squeezing into tight spaces.”

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