In the future, that school of fish swimming by the dock might be something else — drones. The U.S. Navy is experimenting with a “bio-memetic” unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) that blends in with its aquatic environment.
“It mimics a fish. It looks like a fish. We call it robo-tuna, affectionately, but it is a UUV. It does not have a propeller or a jet. It actually swims by flipping its tail around,” Capt. Jim Loper, concepts and innovation department head, Navy Warfare Development Command, Norfolk told the defense website Military.com Wednesday.
The 4 foot-long robotic fish was developed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert in 2012 as part of the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) and was put together by the Massachusetts firm Boston Engineering.
“We’re imaging this can loiter for days, possibly weeks on a battery that allows it to maintain its position. This is a sensor we can put out there that matches in with the local life so to speak,” Capt. Loper told military.com.
Part of what makes the “robo-tuna” such an asset, besides its stealth nature and ability to swim up to 40 knots, can be traced back to fish biology.
“The fact that the front portion of the animal is mainly stationary when swimming is important because when you carrying sensors, you don’t want everything moving all over the place and messing up what you are carrying on board,” Mark Smithers, vice president and chief technology officer at Boston Engineering, told Military.com in a written statement.
The Navy hopes that as technology advances its new UUV will be readily available for missions such as undersea mine detection and extended surveillance of ships, ports and submarines, Military.com reported.