Would be smugglers and terrorists hoping to sneak drugs and weapons into the country hidden aboard vessels had better think again, for their plans will soon be rumbled by US government’s latest secret weapon – robotic fish.
Modeled on the vastly under-rated tuna fish – one of the fastest and most maneuverable of all the creatures of the deep – the newly developed BIOswimmer robofish will be able to search and inspect the hulls of ships, and even the ocean floor should the bad guys attempt to ditch their contraband overboard.
The BIOSwimmer is designed to operate in the harshest of environments, featuring a flexible aft section, plus numerous fins in the most appropriate positions to ensure maximum maneuverability.
Researchers at the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate said that the BIOSwimmer is a vast improvement of current underwater robots, which are plagued by maneuverability and propulsion problems. As well as being able to scan the hull of ships, the BIOSwimmer is also said to be nimble enough to squeeze into the most hard-to-reach places, such as flooded bilges and tanks, which are some of the favorite hiding places of smugglers.
The robo-fish can also inspect harbors and piers for safety purposes, carry out general inspections on the sea floor, or possibly even be used for spying and other military purposes.
Mike Rufo, of the Advance Systems Group of the Boston Engineering Corp., which is helping Homeland Security to design the BIOSwimmer, explained:
“It’s designed to support a variety of tactical missions and with its interchangeable sensor payloads and reconfigurable operator controls, can be optimized on a per-mission basis,”
The BIOSwimmer is powered by lithium-ion batteries, and carries an on-board computer used for communications, sensor processing and navigation.