Robotic turtles for underwater survey

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Friday, December 6, 2013

U-CAT is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to human divers. Photo: Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology

The Science Museum’s Robot Safari, in partnership with EUNIC London (European Union National Institutes for Culture), saw the launch of the underwater robot U-CAT designed to explore underwater shipwrecks.

Designed by the Centre for Biorobotics at the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia, the robot’s manoeuvrability is similar to that of a sea turtle. It uses four independently controlled flippers meaning it can move in all directions.

The robot carries an onboard camera so that video footage can be pieced together to reconstruct an underwater site.

Taavi Salumäe, the designer of U-CAT and head researcher at the Centre for Biorobotics, said: “Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. Fin propulsors on U-CAT can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck.”

U-CAT is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to human divers. It’s part of a EU funded project called ARROWS, which is developing technologies to assist underwater archaeologists.

The Robot Safari exhibition took place at the London Science Museum from 28 November to 1 December 2013.