Meet the prototype of the robot penguin, named Quadroin, is being used to study the Ocean
Quadroin, developed by German company EvoLogics, is designed to conduct research missions in all weather, dive to over 150m and interact with other Quadroins.
Quadroins novel design is thanks to Burkard Baschek who was inspired to take a different approach after (while working as head of Germany’s Institute of Coastal Ocean Dynamics at the Helmholtz Centre Hereon in Geesthacht) he lost more than $20k of traditional deepwater equipment during a mission in the Pacific Ocean.
At that point Baschek was using an array of sensors attached to a rope. This was towed behind his ship to scan eddies but would catch on things underwater and sink.
The device is more than just an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) – it is the next step forward for marine sensory equipment.
Berlin-based company EvoLogics pitches itself as specialising in producing bionics based on natural evolution. The team there though the humble penguin might hold the solution to the Bannaschs problem.
Speaking to the Guardian Rudolf Bannasch, who leads the design team explained that “penguins provide a shape with optimal streamlining characteristics.”
They believe that penguins are 20%-30% more streamlined than anything designed in a laboratory and would be an ideal fit the type of high-speed measurements required to study eddies.
The machine is 3D-printed and built to mimic a penguin – its primary mission will be to measure the properties of oceanic eddies. Eddies are like giant whirlpools – and their swirling motion causes nutrients that are normally found in colder, deeper waters to come to the surface.
This movement of nutrients is critical to a number of food chains but eddies are poorly understood they can be so small and short-lived.
The initial Quadroin prototype packs four propellers to move it around, has a top speed of 9mph, and has the same sensor package as Bannasch original rope. Unlike Bannaschs rope it can move freely up to 150m underwater and avoid any underwater obstructions.
The team are now working to create another two Quadroin drones which would allow the set to act as a swarm to collect more data.
While the drones will cost around £70k each; they offer oceanic researchers good value. A single drone costs about the same as hiring an equipped ocean research vessel for just one day. Our hope is developments like these will make marine studies more accessible to researchers across the world that might lack the budgets for full ocean missions.