There’s clearly a market for long-duration ocean going robots
A mola, or ocean sunfish, is a very big, very flat, and (in this reporter’s opinion) rather silly looking tropical bony fish. Aerovioronment has used the sunfish as an inspiration for one of their latest proof of concept robots: Mola, an oceangoing robot that’s powered by the sun.
The pic on the right shows a behavior called “basking,” where a sunfish will sometimes float along up at the surface on its side. It’s thought that this may be an invitation for birds to land on the fish and peck parasites out of its skin, or it could also simply be that the fish is sunning itself to help it digest food. Either way, Aerovironment‘s new Mola robot does the same thing, except it’s more interested in charging up its solar panels and less interested in being pecked by birds.
Solar power may not seem like the greatest idea for a robot that’s designed to spend the majority of its time submerged. In fact, the robot is programmed to stay as deep underwater as it can while still getting enough power to move. The nice thing about using solar panels on an aquatic robot, though, is that you can make them very durable for cheap, you can power your robot for indefinite periods, and if you need more power, you’re not restricted by space: with the whole ocean to play with, adding a tail of additional panels is no problem.
via IEEE Spectrum
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