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Could A Robot Jellyfish Save the Ocean?

The robot revolution began a decade ago with ‘Asimo’ by Honda.

Now, bolder and bolder robots have debuted from likely sources (DARPA, Air Force, etc), and unlikely ones (Kickstarter, MIT, etc).

A new aquatic ‘bot from Virginia Tech may one day be used to keep our oceans safe.

Nicknamed ‘Cyro’, this five-foot, seven-inches jellyfish robot is a machine to behold.

It’s extremely lifelike in its functions and programming, and from a distance could fool even the most veteran of marine researchers.

And that’s the main idea.

Cyro will one day patrol for illegal dumping, pollution, and spills off our nation’s coast and in deeper waters. Since it mimics the likeness of a real jellyfish, illegal dumpers and fishers won’t suspect their actions are being monitored.

The first version of Cyro, aptly named ‘RoboJelly’, was about the size of a man’s hand. It mimics the type of jellyfish one would find on a beach. Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at VT said they needed to create a larger version of RoboJelly for practical purposes.

“A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration and longer range of operation. Biological and engineering results show that larger vehicles have a lower cost of transport, which is a metric used to determine how much energy is spent for traveling”

The project was funded by the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research. The government gave Virginia Tech a $5 million grant to create their robots.

Other intended uses for Cyro will be mapping ocean floors, monitoring currents, studying aquatic life, etc.

One of the main reasons researchers chose jellyfish as the marine animal to mimic in robotic form is because of the minimal amount of energy needed to operate the ‘bots. They’re also a popular animal in every major oceanic area in the world, which helps the surveillance aspect of their programming.

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