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article imageVideo: Cyro, robotic surveillance jellyfish at Virginia Tech

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 29, 2013 in Technology
Researchers at Virginia Tech say they have developed a robotic jellyfish called Cyro, an autonomous marine robot with eight arms measuring nearly six feet and weighing 170 pounds.
The robot is designed to mimic the movements of a jellyfish using an energy-efficient puslatile umbrella-like silicone frame to produce locomotion.
LA Times reports that researchers at Virginia Tech working in collaboration with others at UCLA, Stanford University, Providence College and the University of Texas received a $5-million grant from the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research to develop autonomous marine robots which can be used for underwater military surveillance, monitor the environment, help to clean up oil spills and engage in search and rescue operations.
Cyro's design is nature-inspired, based on one of the largest species of jellyfish in the world Cyanea capillata. The name Cyro derived from "Cyanea" and "robot."
One of the engineers developing Cyro is Alex Villaneuva, a graduate student at Virginia Tech's college of engineering. He explains: "Our goal with this robot is to copy the natural jellyfish."
The reason why the engineering researchers favor the jellyfish model for an autonomous marine robot is that as far as locomotion in a marine environment is concerned, jellyfish are among the most energy-efficient. Cyro simulates the way a real-life jellyfish propels through water by pulsating an "umbrella-like" frame.
LA Times reports Villaneuva says: "We’re dealing with a type of propulsion that’s not commonly studied. It’s not like a boat or a submarine."
Like an umbrella, Cyro has a silicon jelly-like mass supported by eight mechanical limbs on a metal chassis. Cyro's energy-efficient jellyfish design will make it possible to leave it in the ocean for long periods.
Villaneuva explains: "This robot, we intend to leave it in the ocean for as long as we can. We’re talking, like, weeks and months and even more if we can."
To make it possible for Cyro to remain submerged for long periods, it has been equipped with a rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery. According to Engadget, there is a proposal to make a hydrogen-powered "jellybot" so that it can stay underwater indefinitely by refueling directly from water, but researchers are still a long way from developing the concept.
Cyro promises to be an ideal marine spybot not only because of its ability to remain in the ocean for long periods due to its energy-efficiency, but also because of its "natural-looking" silicone body that blends it with its environment.
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