|screenshot from Virginia Tech video|
Continuing the US military’s focus on developing robots that mimic animals, the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and Office of Naval Research has funded a project that has already produced a prototype of a giant robotic jellyfish.
Other research includes insect-like drones capable of carrying out lethal missions, a silent drone inspired by owls, bird-like drones already used in the field, an amazingly fast robot modeled after a cheetah, a strange animal-like walking drone and more lifelike humanoid robots that can approach animal and human efficiency.
The prototype robotic jellyfish, dubbed “Cyro,” is 5 foot 7 inches, weighs in at 170 pounds and was created under a project funded by a $5 million grant.
The grant was funded by the same agency behind the insanely fast, GPS-guided projectile program, so while it may sound great that it could “be used to keep tabs on ecologically-sensitive underwater areas or to help clean up oil spills,” the reality is that the military applications will obviously be given priority.
The military doesn’t spend millions to develop robots just to help keep the environment clean, though the Virginia Tech promotional video (embedded below) does list “military surveillance” as the first possible application.
“Imagine a fully-realized version of such a robot running underwater surveillance missions for the U.S. Navy — the marine version of a weaponless drone, in other words, perhaps poking around someone’s oceanfront property (or, heaven forbid, employed in a civilian capacity by ignoble paparazzi to stalk celebrities),” writes Matt Peckham for Time. “Cool, but a little creepy, right?”
“We intend to leave it in the ocean for as long as we can. So we’re talking weeks and months, and even more if we can,” said Alex Villanueva, a graduate student at Virginia Tech working on the project.
This jellyfish-like design would also have a massive advantage in terms of stealth, according to Danger Room.
“Mimicking a natural animal found in a region allows you to explore a lot better,” Villanueva said.
Yet the most noteworthy of all is that it is what Danger Room calls “a launch-and-forget robot” in that Cyro is not remote controlled but instead runs totally autonomously.
While Danger Room reports, “There’s no saying whether the Navy will purchase the ‘bot, and its inventors are comfortable emphasizing its civilian potential as an oceanographic research testbed,” Geek.com reports that the researchers were awarded a 5-year grant.
It seems that if the project is even remotely successful, the military will be quick to jump on the opportunity to have a long-term autonomous oceanic surveillance tool.
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