Military Robotics

US Navy's Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming Robot

Posted 23 Sep 2009 at 16:42 UTC by steve Share This

The US Navy is trying to save some money by making their ships more fuel efficient. Keeping a ship's hull free of barnacles, oysters, algae, and other marine life can decrease fuel consumption by up to 40 percent and increase speed by 10 percent. To do the job of cleaning, or "grooming", a vessel's hull, the Office of Naval Research has developed the Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming (BUG) robot (PDF format). The BUG is an autonomous robot that uses negative pressure vortex regenerative fluid movement (which civilians refer to as "suction") to stick to the hull of a ship. Four wheels drive it forward while sensors including biofilm detectors and flourometers allow it to avoid obstacles and plan paths that will take it toward fouled surfaces. The Navy hopes BUGs will be online by 2015, saving up $500 million in maintenance costs per ship while reducing the Navy's carbon footprint. The robot could also be used on non-military ships and yachts. For more info, see the ONR news release.

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