Robots are already largely inspired by the bodies of animals, so why not mimic their behaviors too? Swarms of insects and schools of fish have inspired engineers to create groups of robots that move as one entity, and now Aquabotix has unleashed SwarmDiver, a series of small synchronized swimmers loaded with sensors for defense, research or monitoring applications.
Each SwarmDiver is 75 cm (29.5 in) long, weighs 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) and looks like an unassuming, yellow plastic pipe. They get around thanks to propellers driven by two brushless DC motors that allow them to hit a top speed of 2.2 m per second (4.9 mph). With a battery life of about 2.5 hours, Aquabotix says the little swimmers should be able to travel up to 7 km (4.3 mi), and they're designed to handle the surf.
The SwarmDivers are equipped to measure temperature and pressure, and can be tracked via GPS to within 1 m (3.3 ft). While zipping around on the surface, they use radio to communicate with each other and the controller, but they can also dive to a depth of 50 m (164 ft) – although the operator will need to wait until the bots resurface before receiving the data they gather down there.
To live up to their name, one person can control the entire SwarmDiver fleet, and while we're not sure how many units can be hooked up at once, Aquabotix has released a video showing a school of 30 working together. The swarming algorithms are designed to be easy to use, with several formations to choose from and a Return Home function that brings the bots back in single file.
Along with defense and security, Aquabotix says the SwarmDiver system is designed for use in research, environmental monitoring, harbor management, plume tracking and other applications.
SwarmDivers are available to order now, and although Aquabotix hasn't released an official price, it does say the bots are "low cost."
Check out the SwarmDivers in action in the video below.
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