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Robo turtle will explore shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Baltic

The autonomous robot will be highly maneuverable and smaller than most of the robots currently used in underwater exploration.

By Ananth Baliga
Robo turtle will explore shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Baltic
Researchers Asko Ristolainen and Taavi Salumäe look the U-CAT swimming in an aquarium. The independent use of its four flippers, which make it highly maneuverable, and its small size are what will make the robotic turtle useful in exploring shipwrecks. (Credit: Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology)

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- An autonomous underwater robot called U-CAT, which swims like a turtle and is designed to explore shipwrecks, will be unveiled at the London Science Museum on Thursday.

The U-CAT has four independently driven flippers, making the robot highly maneuverable. This maneuverability, which lets the U-CAT move backward, forward and pivot around its axis, will help in the confined spaces of a shipwreck.

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“Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. Fin propulsors of 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”, says Taavi Salumäe, the designer of the U-CAT and a researcher at Tallinn University of Technology.

The robot turtle will be deployed in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, both rich with submerged history, for underwater exploration.

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Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa, head of the university's Centre for Biorobotics, said that using solutions found in nature to overcome technological hurdles faced in robotics is making biometric robots -- those based on animals and plants -- more common.

The small size of the U-CAT will give it a distinct advantage, as most underwater robots, currently used for oil and gas exploration, are large and too expensive to use for exploring a shipwreck. The U-CAT is part of the EU-funded ARROWS project, which is developing technologies to assist underwater archaeologists.

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The U-CAT, as well as an interactive scaled-down model of the robot in an aquarium, will be unveiled for a Robot Safari biometric robot exhibit at the London Science Museum. The exhibit will run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

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[Tallinn University of Technology] [London Science Museum]

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