Development of a high-endurance bio-inspired underwater vehicle with energy extraction capabilities

PI: Keith Moored
University: Lehigh University

Remotely controlled or autonomous underwater vehicles are becoming more prominent across a wide range of applications. These drones are being used in military operations, for mapping the ocean floor, for inspecting hulls of vessels entering ports, and in exploring remote locations such as under the arctic ice sheet. The next generation of these devices may be used in waterway management to inspect infrastructure such as the piers of bridges, dams, and locks, for both routine maintenance and during disaster recovery efforts. To be used in these applications, next generation underwater vehicles should be able to be deployed for extended periods of time, such as over days or months, by having high propulsive efficiency and energy extraction capabilities. These vehicles should also have high maneuverability and high control authority to navigate precisely in highly dynamic environments such as in shallow waterways. Bio-inspired underwater vehicles are perfectly suited to address these needs.

The key is to develop a bio-inspired underwater vehicle with a highly efficient propulsive drive and the capability to extract energy from the flow environment to regenerate its batteries. Bio-inspired devices are also typically more maneuverable and have more precise control authority than conventional underwater vehicles. The team's goal with the proposed work will be to design and develop a highly efficient bio-inspired underwater vehicle that is capable of extracting energy from a flow environment.