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Autonomous, human-sized robot jellyfish could patrol US waters

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jellyfish (virginia tech)
jellyfish (virginia tech)

Researchers are building an eerie, human-sized robot jellyfish with a lifelike silicone mantle to patrol the oceans. Virginia Tech mechanical engineering professor Shashank Priya is leading the team, which hopes its invention can be used for jobs ranging from military surveillance to cleaning up oil spills and mapping ocean floors, reports The project is part of a $5 million multi-university program funded by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research.

The five-foot-seven, 175-pound robot, Cyro, is named after the jellyfish cyanea capillata — plus "ro" as in "robot" — and it’s powered by electric motors that pump its eight mechanical arms up and down. It turns out that the jellyfish’s efficient natural motion makes it a good starting point for an undersea robot, especially one that’s expected to last weeks or months on a single charge.

Those power requirements are actually the biggest reason why the scientists decided to go so big with the project, which houses a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery. In comparison, the team’s other jellyfish robot, Robojelly, is only about the size of a human hand. In any case, there’s no need to worry about these washing up on your local beach any time soon — Cyro is still a prototype, and actual deployment is still years away.