A team with the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London in the UK has developed a floating robot that can shoot a jet of water from the stern to move through the air.
The robot is shaped like a small plane. A video released by the college shows his aerial acrobatics in slow motion.
The innovative feature of this particular robot is its sophisticated drive system. Water and calcium carbide powder mix in a reaction chamber to form acetylene gas that ignites, expands, and pushes out water to propel the robot. It is a powerful combination that allows the robot to glide up to 26 meters in the air.
"The water-to-air transition is an energy-intensive process that is difficult to realize on a small scale, a flying vehicle that has to be lightweight for flight," said Mirko Kovac, director of the Aerial Robotics Laboratory. The only moving part is a pump that mixes water and powder.
The researchers released details about the robot in the journal Science Robotics on Wednesday. The robot has already been tested in the laboratory and outdoors. He defied a wave tank to see if he could still jump in harsher water conditions. It could.
"These types of power-efficient, cable-free robots could be very useful in environments that are usually time and resource intensive to monitor, including after disasters such as floods or nuclear accidents," says chief author Raphael Zufferey.
While it's fun to speculate about a future robopocalypse, this particular robot seems to be helpful to humans. The development process continues with the use of the coral reef monitoring and offshore platform machine.
Get out there, flying fish-bot. We roll for you.