Wouldn’t be long till we won’t be able to differentiate between real animals and drones…
Earlier this month, a group of Chinese researchers tested a new underwater drone that is shaped exactly like a manta ray and even swims like one. In one of the first open water tests conducted in the South China Sea, the bio-inspired design was created by a Chinese university with sufficient funds from the Chinese military.
China has not announced any plans to use the undersea drone for any defense applications as of now but the drone holds substantial value as an aerial vehicle that can easily be used to collect information while blending in with the surroundings and the real manta rays.
The UUV is modeled on the “shape and motion” of a manta ray and can “flap its wings and slide underwater” like a real ray. Xinhua also explains that the manta ray is the most efficient swimmer and by modeling the drone on them, gives it “high propulsion efficiency, high mobility and stability, low noise and large load capacity” The drone is around 1036 pounds and can dive to a depth of 3362 feet underwater.
This drone is one of the few examples of biomimetics in which a machinery’s design is based on an animal to take advantage of that animal’s physical capabilities. Among other examples are tuna and shark which are used for their fast range-efficiency.
The news of the new undersea drone was first reported on 6th September by Xinhua, the official state newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party along with a video of the bright yellow colored unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) being lowered into the sea in the vicinity of the Xisha Islands, which are claimed by China, Taiwan as well as Vietnam. But we have yet to see if this manta ray becomes part of the Chinese military collection or not.