If this shark swam up beside you in the sea, flipping its tail back and forth as it sliced through the water, you’d likely scream. But it’s actually not a shark at all: it’s an incredibly lifelike drone developed by the chief of naval operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) project entitled Silent NEMO. Known as ‘GhostSwimmer,’ the drone is five feet long, weighs nearly 100 pounds and moves just like a real shark as it swims.
The drone is exploring possibly uses for unmanned underwater vehicles inspired by real living creatures, which could become a valuable part of the US Navy’s fleet. It could enable the Navy to access potentially dangerous sites, keeping divers and sailors safe.
“It swims just like a fish does by oscillating its tail fin back and forth,’ says Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering’s Advanced Systems Group. “The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities.”
The robot’s long-lasting battery enables it to roam underwater for long periods of time, though it can also be controlled via laptop using a 500-foot tether that transmits the information. If it’s used without the tether, the robot has to be brought to the surface periodically to download the data it has collected.
“Our mantra is ‘you have permission to be creative,'” says Captain Jim Loper, department head for Concepts and Innovation, NWDC. “We want our people to go out there and dream big dreams and put them into action. We want to see projects like this replicated throughout the fleet.”
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