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24 Underwater Drones – The Boom in Robotics Beneath the Waves

Anti-Lionfish Drones

Underwater Drones

(Image credit: Robots in Service of the Environment)

A non-profit group called Robots in Service of the Environment (RSE) is developing an underwater drone to hunt down and terminate Asian lionfish, which have become a serious threat to coral reef systems in the Western Pacific, where they have no natural predators.

The deep-diving drone is guided by controllers at the surface to track and close on the invasive fishy enemy, before sucking them into a containment tube and stunning them with an electrical charge – one drone can humanely dispatch up to ten lionfish before returning to the surface with its catch.

Manta Ray Drone

Underwater Drones

(Image credit: Evologics)

The BOSS Manta Ray is an autonomous underwater drone developed by German robotics company Evologics, which specialises in aerospace and maritime robotics.

The drone is designed to mimic the manta's flexible body, which gives it the ability to control its depth very precisely with its large wings, while its "flapping" mode of swimming is very energy efficient. It is also equipped with jet thrusters to give it a high-speed mode.

Robotic Jellyfish

Underwater Drones

(Image credit: Festo)

Like Evologics, some other underwater drone makers technology companies are also looking for ideas from nature – a concept known as biomimicry.

German engineering company Festo has developed its Aquajelly underwater robots to mimic the swimming motions of jellyfish. They can also communicate with each other – something real jellyfish probably can't do – to coordinate their behaviour.

Tom Metcalfe is a journalist based in London who writes mainly about science, space, archaeology, the earth, and the oceans. He's written for the BBC, NBC News, Live Science, National Geographic, Scientific American, Air & Space, and others.