Introducing GhostSwimmer: The US Navy’s robot shark drone

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, the US military has developed an underwater drone that looks and moves just like a real-life shark.

GhostSwimmer is five feet long, weighs almost 100 pounds and is part of a Navy experiment into biomimetic, unmanned, underwater vehicles.

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The robot propels itself using its tail and is capable of operating in water as shallow as 10 inches or diving to depths of 300 feet. It has also been designed with stealth in mind, with its dorsal and pectoral fins enabling it to effectively mimic a real fish. It is also capable of operating independently, returning to the surface when necessary to communicate, or can be controlled via a 500-foot tether.

The US Navy has just finished testing the design, so a use for the project has not yet been finalised. However, in the future it may be used for surveillance or reconnaissance missions and could ultimately replace dolphins and sea lions currently used by the Navy to identify underwater mines.

A number of scientists, researchers and engineers have begun turning to nature for robotic inspiration. DARPA has helped develop the “Cheetah” robot, which can run at almost 30 mph, while the Stickybot uses a Gecko-inspired design to climb smooth surfaces.

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The GhostSwimmer was developed by the Advanced Systems Group at Boston Engineering, a firm contracted to the US Navy specialising in unmanned robotic vehicles. While there is no indication as to when the robot shark will be deployed, you may want to keep an eye out for it next time you hit the beach.

Image Credit: Office of Naval Research