Can a Robot Operate Effectively Underwater?

70 per cent of Earth is covered with water, and of which only 20 per cent has been explored or charted. There is a lot we haven’t seen due to human limitations.

A research team from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has found that Sea stars have been staying attached to surfaces under extreme hydrodynamic loads by modifying their shape. It was found that sea stars create a “downforce” due to their shape. This means that instead of being lifted by the flow forces, the sea stars are pushed downward toward the rock or floor surface they are on.

Interaction between Shape and Force
The team tested this understanding of sea star shape, and its impact on the force in the water with both computational and 3-D printed models. They discovered that instead of the sea stars being dragged away from the surfaces they were on, they were being forced down—solely because of their shape.

The researchers tried testing other shapes as well like cone or dome does not create the upward water flow which acts like a ramp that pushes water away from its surface. 

Soft Robotics
The next level is analysing a soft structure than can morph in real-time. The key is taking advantage of the surrounding instead of battling it. The purpose is to determine what shape would benefit a robot while shifting form.