Scientists develop robot (BioSwimmer) disguised as tuna for underwater inspections


In a recent project, Boston Engineers develop BIOSwimmer, a semi-autonomous underwater vehicle equipped to inspect a vessel’s exterior for illicit cargo and contraband, as well as harbor facilities for unwanted activity.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program funds the study.

The purpose of the project is to deal with creative smuggling and targeted attacks. Currently, underwater portion of ship hulls can host smuggled goods, and improvised explosive devices can target port and harbor infrastructure.

The BIOSwimmer can work with the field officer to recognize these threats in time to take remediation measures.

It is a biomimetic system and has the ability to twist and turn in limited space within the water. In addition, it provides faster hull scanning, increased maneuverability, and more robust coverage.

For example, it can inspect the outside of ships for drugs and other contraband trying to make it across the border underwater.

Researchers tested BIOSwimmer in 2016 at the Port of Charleston. At that demonstration, it conducted a search of 6 ships, one barge, and one bridge abutment, and performed a search for a lost shipping container in the harbor channel.

Given its capability to inspect hard to reach areas of vessels and infrastructure, researchers are optimistic about the potential for BIOSwimmer to achieve commercialization and become a valued partner in strengthening the security of ports.

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News Source: Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate.
Figure legend: This image is credited to DHS S&T.