Biomimicry is not new, but this robotic creature here from Pliant Energy Systems called Velox takes biomimicry to the next level. How so? It is amphibious. TBH, I don’t know what to make of this robot. It does not resemble any creature, but at the same time, it is obvious that it is somehow a hybrid of a crawling animal and a fish of sort. In fact, I thought it looks like a cross between the eerie-looking salamander-like robot and Festo’s eel-like robotic fish.
You know what? I think it probably has the “DNA” of both. It does not move like a salamander though, but it is surely more adaptable. The flexible fins on its sides are highly versatile, enabling it to traverse across a variety of surfaces, including snow, sand, and even ice. It can, of course, swim too. Now, that’s one hell of a robot. While Velox has long, flexible fins like the Festo BionicFinWave, they are not fixed; they can change orientation to allow it to ‘crawl’ on land, swamp, or virtually any surface.
Pliant Energy Systems calls this new kind of drive system as “undulating propulsion system” and it has several benefits, including maneuverability and “excellent static thrust per watt.” The wavy fins also lend the robot with extremely stealth characteristics and since, no conventional propellers are used, it eliminates the any risk of entanglement with plants or other debris, on land or in water, and lowers the environmental impact.
So, what are the applications of Velox? The most obvious is military operations, where this little guy can be used to bring supplies to soldier straight from a vessel out in the sea. It can also be use to observing wildlife, study coral reefs and of course, as a personal propulsion for professional divers and recreational use. Interestingly, it can also orientate the fins to “skate” across the under the surface of the ice. Pliant Energy Systems has also granted no less than 15 patented with multiple patent pending. In case you think Pliant Energy Systems is nobody, well, they are not.
The Brooklyn-based engineering company already has support from several prominent organizations, including Office of Naval Research (but, of course), National Science Foundation, New York State Energy Research & Development Authority – just to name a few. At this point, Velox is still a prototype, but as you can see in the video below, it has proven its chops.
Undulating propulsion system may not be practical for everyday vehicles, but we do see it making its way to all-terrain vehicles, and watercraft like submarines in future. Though it is not clear how it performs with regard to cavitation for the latter’s application.
Images: Pliant Energy Systems.