The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) is funding an amphibious optionally autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) prototype for use in littoral, surf and tide-zones, high-vegetation, debris-filled, or icy environments. The prototype was showcased and demonstrated at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Exposition in Washington, DC, on 20–21 July 2017.
Pliant Energy Systems' agile swimmer robot uses multi-stable non-linear systems to produce repetitive undulating motion for propulsion. Instead of propellers, the planar hyperbolic geometry and flexible electroactive-polymer undulating fins are able to propel the system underwater, on sandy beaches, over sea- or land-based vegetation, slippery or wet rocks, and over or under ice floes and ice shelves. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Key mission roles include land, sea, or undersea communications payloads, including radio, GPS, WiFi, or satellite links; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); search and rescue; mine scanning and identification; and other roles, providing support to ongoing missions, such as station keeping.
According to Benjamin Pietro Filardo, founder and CEO of Pliant Energy Systems, the key advantage of the agile swimmer is its amphibious nature to move from under sea, to beach and through surf, and then over vegetation or through marshes. The undulating propulsion cannot tangle in dense vegetation because there are no spinning parts, and there is minimal damage to plant and disturbance to sediment layers.
"The other thing about non-tangling is that you can go into very-debris-filled water with a lot of plant matter or even sewage," Filardo told Jane's . "It could even swim up a sewer line because it doesn't get tangled, and it undulates rather than spinning ... that's why it is so versatile."
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