Engineers at the Imperial College London have designed what is perhaps the most “energetic” robot yet. Enter the flying fish robot, with its gliding wings, and its own signature forward propulsion that mimics the actual thing.
Vehicles that are able to shift travel mediums from water to air is not exactly something unique. But to go from underwater to being airborne requires a bit more engineering effort to allow the vehicle to seamlessly adapt between the two environments.
This is probably why the researchers were inspired to build the robot out of the only animal large enough to accomplish such a feat. Unlike a real flying fish though, which slaps water hard in order to jump away from predators, this flying fish robot uses a water-reactive chemical system that pushes the robot using expanding gas and the water that fills it.
When it flies, it can shoot out of the water for about 26 meters through the air. The chemical used for the gas-plus-water reaction is calcium carbide, precisely because it combusts readily when it comes in contact with water. A total of just 0.2 grams is needed in order to make the jump that you see in the demo video, and it does not incorporate any other complex moving parts.
What exactly would a flying fish robot be useful for you ask? Well, the researchers did describe its purpose as being able to “collect water samples in tricky environments”.
First, they could go cheap and simply throw the robot in any body of water, before it sends the water samples out in a powerful stream of gas and water. Another idea might be to simply integrate such a system as part of the design, so that it will be just one of the many different systems that a more sophisticated robot can use.
After successfully testing the flying fish robot, the researchers are hoping to collaborate with the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, in order to build the next prototypes with even more advanced materials and to test them under many more conditions and environments.