The octopus has a number of characteristics that make it a good source of inspiration for a marine robot. Its method of propulsion is of particular interest, but also its ability to change shape almost at will, and its surprising strength, flexibility and manoeuvrability. With this in mind, the EU-funded CFD-OCTOPROP project modelled the fluid dynamics involved in the propulsion of a cephalopod-inspired robot. Along with another EU-funded project (OCTOPUS), CFP-OCTOPROP aimed to build a soft-bodied robot propelled with jets of water (pulsed-jet thrust). Researchers built three computational fluid dynamics models that describe the performance of various aspects of the robot's movement. One focused on the mechanics of movement, another on control of the vehicle, and the third looked at the forces on the soft robot 'body'. The models were refined over time, and were ultimately used to optimise the design of the robot. They were also especially useful for understanding the forces acting on the robot during pulsed-jet thrusting. Under the umbrella of the OCTOPUS project, researchers built and validated a soft-bodied robot that can propel itself using jets of water or by crawling. Jet propulsion is achieved by expanding and contracting an elastic shell, just like a cephalopod. This exciting study will be incorporated into PoseiDRONE, a new research project to develop and test the soft-bodied robot further. One day, these robots may find use in environmental monitoring and other marine activities not suited to traditional robots.
Octopus, robot, marine robot, cephalopod, soft-bodied robot, pulsed-jet thrust, environmental monitoring, marine activities