There’s an amazing new fish-like robot called Belle that is exploring the ocean and gathering important information without causing any disturbance to marine life. This robot has the potential to revolutionize the way we study underwater creatures and understand the impact of factors like overfishing and climate change.
“We want to capture the ecosystems the way they actually behave,” Leon Guggenheim, a mechanical engineering student at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, told Reuters.
“Those areas are particularly vulnerable to propeller-based systems that would just sort of shred through the corals or go and scare the fish away,” Robert Katzschmann, Assistant Professor of Robotics at ETH Zurich, said.
Belle is designed to mimic a fish and seamlessly blend into its surroundings, thanks to its silent movements. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate underwater autonomously. But that’s not all! It can also collect DNA samples and capture high-resolution videos.
Despite its advanced capabilities, Belle is lightweight and compact, measuring less than a meter in length and weighing around 10 kilograms when out of the water. It uses a silicone fin with two water-filled cavities, which allows it to move quietly and naturally in coral environments deep beneath the surface. Belle can operate autonomously for two hours before its batteries need to be recharged.
“These cavities are filled and emptied with water through a pump system, and that moves the fin back and forth, because you have a cavity on one side which creates an overpressure and a cavity on the other side which creates a vacuum. That then bends the fin in one direction,” Guggenheim said.
“It swims to the surface, sends us a GPS signal and then we go and pick it up again,” Guggenheim said.
“And from there it could send us data, but the idea is that the mission is so long, that the battery has to be replaced anyways and the environmental DNA filter has to be replaced anyways, so there’s no point in sending data back if you have to manually get the data for the environmental DNA filter anyways”.
News outlets have reported that this robot could soon become an invaluable tool for marine biologists. They can use Belle to study and protect the health and biodiversity of different reef ecosystems, ensuring the conservation of marine wildlife. With Belle’s help, scientists can gather crucial data while minimizing any disruption to underwater habitats.