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Bionic Dolphin Cruises at 80 mph

Bionic Dolphin Cruises at 80 mph

The Bionic Dolphin is a remarkable submersible hydrofoil that can cruise across open water at speeds of up to 80 mph. Underwater? No problem for the Bionic Dolphin, which can travel underwater at speeds of 40 mph; that's as fast as a real dolphin can swim. It's starting to look like science fiction writer David Brin's whale waldoes might be possible.

I saw the Bionic Dolphin at NextFest 2006, a technology exposition hosted by Wired magazine in NYC's Javits Center. Surprisingly compact, the device is powered by a 425-horsepower Corvette engine (see exclusive photos here).

The Bionic Dolphin is built to withstand rough seas; it's skin and structure are built of a composite of materials including Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests. The custom-built vehicle cost about $350,000 to build, but two-seater versions would probably sell for about $120,000 in production. Its inventor, Thomas "Doc" Rowe, hopes to place the vehicle in resorts by 2007.

The idea that individual humans will be able to move with dolphin-like speed and agility was predicted by science fiction writer David Brin, who thought up something he called a 'whale waldo' in his 1979 novel Sundiver. It is a kind of super-powered suit which can also let humans travel at dolphin speeds :

With a half muttered prayer to the Dreamer, he touched a switch releasing the amplifiers on both Makakai's waldo and his own, then cautiously turned his arms to set the fins into motion. He flexed his legs, the massive flukes thrust back jerkily in response, and his machine immediately rolled over and sank. Jacob tried to correct but overcompensated, making the waldo tumble even worse. The beating of his fins momentarily made the area around him a churning mass of bubbles, until patiently, by trial and error, he got himself righted. He pushed off again, carefully, to get some headway, then arched his back and kicked out. The waldo responded with a great tail-slashing leap into the air. (Read more about Brin's whale waldoes)

If you are interested in unusual underwater vehicles, take a look at these:

If you are interested in animal-themed vehicles, check out the cool Shiva The Mechanical Lion video. Or, read more about the Bionic Dolphin.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.