Researchers at five U.S. universities are developing a surveillance drone for the U.S. Navy that looks like a jellyfish, and does not run on electricity, according to a report published in the academic journal, “Smart Materials and Structures.”
The Office of Naval Research is funding development of the drone, known as “Robojelly,” and each of the schools are working on separate parts of the drone, such as communications, sensors, actuators, biology and propulsion.
Among the schools working on the project include the University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech, which is focused on the submerged vehicle’s design and propulsion which is working on copying the motion and performance of natural jellyfish, as well as their physical appearance.
Robojelly consists of two fist-sized bell-like structures made of silicone that fold and unfold like an umbrella. Connecting the umbrella are artificial muscles created with nanotechnology that contract to move the vehicle.
In addition, Robojelly is powered by hydrogen and oxygen in the water and can regenerate fuel from its natural surroundings. Therefore it does not require an external power source or the constant replacement of batteries, according to the journal report published in the academic journal, “Smart Materials and Structures.” Therefore, the system can stay submerged and refuel itself while conducting surveillance, say researchers.