In early October we took a look at the naro - tartaruga, a biomimetic robot based on sea turtles being built by researchers at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). It's a research platform that tests the concept of fin propulsion, and now we have a video of its first swim, which is surprisingly life-like.

The naro - tartaruga measures a full meter (3.3 feet) in length and weighs 75 kg (165 lbs). It is estimated to swim at speeds up to 7.2 km/h (4.4 mph) with a diving depth of 100 meters (328 feet). For comparison, the green sea turtle usually swims at 2.5 – 3 km/h (1.6 – 1.9 mph) in shallow waters. Sadly, all seven species of sea turtles are considered either "endangered" or "critically endangered."

Currently the naro - tartaruga still lacks a proper shell, which will protect its internal electronics and streamline its shape, possibly reducing drag. In the future, the robot will serve as a vessel for studying autonomous underwater navigation, with interchangeable heads mounted with various sensors. Thanks to its fin-based locomotion, which is less noisy than using propellers, and its natural appearance, a robot like this one would be ideal for studying underwater ecosystems like coral reefs, which are also under serious threat.

The same team is responsible for a tuna fish-like robot simply called the naro (short for nautical robot), which propels itself primarily with its tail fin. Another, more recent example of fin-based propulsion is the Shoal Consortium's robo-fish, which they hope will lead to autonomous underwater sensor networks.

You can see naro - tartaruga take to the pool in the video below.

View gallery - 9 images