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Researchers reveal new robot: a fish called WANDA

A robotic fish called WANDA with a camera that can seek out and ‘swim’ towards a particular object of interest is being revealed at the Actuators for Bionics and Biomimetics Symposium at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute tomorrow, Friday 29 May.

The Wireless Aquatic Navigator for Detection and Analysis is propelled by an active flexible joint tail fin that is activated through conducting polymer artificial muscles.

The biggest advantage of this material, according to researcher Dr Scott McGovern, is the ease with which it mimics the tail fin motion of a fish. WANDA is more mobile and flexible previous sensing systems; fish-like swimming motions mean better manoeuvrability than conventional propeller driven devices, making such devices ideal for underwater inspections within confined spaces.

“Other advantages of conducting polymers are that they are low voltage, light weight and self-contained. Also as there are no complex moving parts, they have the capacity to be more robust than the traditional materials used,” he said.

The person controlling WANDA can change the direction and speed at which the fish swims. It has a small camera that wirelessly sends real-time video to a computer, and video-imaging software is used to analyse the image for object recognition and detection, initially based on specifications such as colour.

WANDA has been designed to continually swim and search for a pre-defined colour, and once detected, directional instructions are given to the operator to enable it to swim towards the object of interest.

One example where this could be used is to detect water quality and pollution levels in water catchments and dams. While existing systems detect pollution from stationary points along the catchment, WANDA can swim around and give a true idea of the whole area and can even swim towards and detect the exact point where pollution may be coming from.

It could also be used to detect structural damage in underwater pipes where divers cannot reach, or to map out underwater areas.

“We are currently working towards generating a closed loop computer control over the robot position in response to the video signal to generate a truly autonomous computer controlled tracking device,” Dr McGovern said.

“We are also looking at ways to make the fish more sophisticated in the future – so the fish can dive to different depths or change direction rapidly – and including other sensors on the body.”

WANDA has been developed through a three-way collaboration between researchers at IPRI, the National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University led by Professor Dermott Diamond, and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation Maritime Platforms Division.

The partnership between IPRI and the National Centre for Sensor Research at DCU spans some 20 years and has resulted in collaborations in the areas of biosensors, ‘wearable sensors’ which can be integrated into clothing, that monitor heartbeat, pulse and breathing, and sensors for environmental purposes, such as WANDA. These collaborations have contributed greatly to the emerging field of nanobionics.

Media Demonstration of WANDA (photo and filming opportunities)

The fish is about 20cm long and will be released into a small swimming pool to demonstrate its capabilities.

Date and time: 12pm, Friday 29 May. Dr Scott McGovern, Professor Gordon Wallace and Professor Dermott Diamond, visiting from DCU in Ireland will be available for interviews.

Demonstration venue: Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, AIIM Building, Innovation Campus, Squires Way, Fairy Meadow.

For further information about this research or to contact or interview researchers at ACES and DCU involved contact ACES Communication Officer Leanne Crouch on 4252 8924 or 0423 055 648.

Last reviewed: 28 May, 2009

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