Navy Deploys Robot Sharks. Yes, Really

Automatonophobia is the technical term for fear of robots. Fear of sharks is selachophobia. Psychiatrists will have to come up with a new term now that the U.S. Navy has deployed, yes, robot sharks.

The Navy’s GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) — a five-foot-long, 100-pound robotic shark — has completed testing and will now join the fleet, according to naval researchers.

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The GhostSwimmer is based on biomimetic design principles, in which engineers leverage millions of years of biological evolution to create machines and systems that emulate animals or natural processes.

“It swims just like a fish does by oscillating its tail fin back and forth,” said Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering’s Advanced Systems Group, on the GhostSwimmer project page. “The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities.”

The Navy plans to use the GhostSwimmer for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well as hull inspections of friendly ships. The robot can operate autonomously for extended periods of time on battery power, or it can be controlled with a 500-foot tether.

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The Navy isn’t disclosing exactly how the GhostSwimmer transmits and receives data, but the press materials state that the robot has to periodically surface to download information it collects.

And here’s some good news for the marine mammal community: Designers are also hoping that the GhostSwimmer could be used to sniff out underwater mines, replacing the bottlenose dolphins and sea lions the Navy currently trains for the task.

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