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US Navy Develops Self-Powered Robotic Jellyfish

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robotic jellyfish

In March of 2011, we reported on Pentagon efforts to develop robotic spy devices that could mimic animals like hummingbirds and insects.

Now, the Navy is well on its way to developing a robotic jellyfish that can whisk through the water using nothing more for fuel than the very ocean water around it.

The realistic, robotic version of the moon jellyfish is able to take in oxygen and hydrogen from the seawater around it in order to produce a chemical reaction that forces its platinum-coated nanotubes and nickel-titanium memory-shape alloy to extend and contract – just like the body of a real jellyfish.

The movements pushes water out of the bell-shaped body, creating a jet of water that propels the jellyfish forward. The researchers pointed out that not only can the robot produce motion from the seawater-fuel, but it produces nothing more than water vapor as waste.

CNET first reported on the robot on March 21st, and noted that the robots could potentially be used by the Navy for “surveillance and environmental monitoring.” (1)

The robots are just another line in a series of developments from the military to replicate elements of nature for a wide variety of purposes.

Practical Uses for a Robotic Jellyfish

It should be noted that Navy facilities were not directly responsible for developing the jellyfish robot. The Navy funded researchers at a variety of tech schools including Virginia Tech and the University of Texas.

The project was a collaborative effort to produce, as project researcher Yonas Tadesse told reporters, “…the first successful powering of an underwater robot using external hydrogen as a fuel source.”

The work was funded by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research. One of the researchers, Alex Villaneuva of Virginia Tech, left no question as to the ultimate purpose of such a robot. Alex stated that the jellyfish will be used for “surveillance purposes.”

Most of the researchers say that the jellyfish could potentially be used for a wide assortment of underwater operations. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see what these robots could be capable of – including monitoring sea conditions for months or years after a spill, searching large areas of the ocean over a period of time for archaeological artifacts, or seeking out the location of underwater mines.

Even more impressive is the fact that the robots could have the ability to communicate to one another, providing for the ability to perform very large scale underwater operations with a large group of the jellyfish robots.

Watching the jellyfish in action is an impressive thing to behold.

The jellyfish body is a bell-shaped structure made of silicon with highly-flexible steel ribs. As it propels itself through the water, it has the nearly identical appearance to a moon jellyfish.

Now, not only will enemies have to keep an eye to the sky for drones and to the ground for nanorobots like insects and birds, but now they’ll have to keep their eyes on the ocean, where thousands of robotic jellyfish could be monitoring their every word.

References & Image Credits:
(1) CNET
(2) Yahoo News
(3) YouTube Video of Jellyfish

Originally published on

  • Anonymous

    Naval warfare continued in this vein through the Middle Ages until the cannon became commonplace and capable of being reloaded quickly enough to be reused in the same battle.

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