Sepios: A Robot Cuttlefish

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Researchers have always looked upon nature for inspiration.  A result of this mimicry is the Sepios robot that is inspired by the cuttlefish.

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A mechanical engineering students project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich,  the Sepios is a robot with four orthogonal fins.  The official launch of Sepios was in May 2014.  Cuttlefish are highly maneuverable little critter, but Sepios has four independently controllable fins that allow it to rotate on any axis and translate in any direction.  It’s like combining a cuttlefish and knifefish.  Each fin has an individual servo controller taking control of all the servos.

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There is one central base unit where all the 4 fins are joined together.  This includes one actuator, numerous sensors, and one swim bladder that help the bot in remaining at a particular level depth.   The body will eventually include a live-streaming camera, a water pressure/depth sensor, laser distance measuring hardware, and a bundled accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, which are used for attitude control.

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Sepios is 70 cm in length with a wingspan of 95 cm.  It weighs around 22.7 kg.  Sepios has a top speed of 1.8 km/hr, maximum depth of 10 meters, and a battery life of an hour and a half, which is easily enough time for an ocean expedition.  The bot has no trouble moving through dense patches of seagrass which would be a nightmare for any other underwater vehicle that relies on propulsion.  The ETH team says that these kinds of qualities might make it ideal for observing marine life.  Future work might also include outfitting Sepios with sensors to allow it to go through an obstacle course.  The Sepios project looks ambitious, its underwater locomotion technology could be the beginning of high tech water robots.