Robot Senses Like a Fish to Swim Upstream

Unlike other animals, fish have a special sense called lateral line sensing that allows them to determine the speed and direction of currents - helping them hover in place and even swim upstream. A European engineering team based in Estonia has built an electronic version of this sense on an underwater vehicle called FILOSE (Robotic FIsh LOcomotion and SEnsing). A main drawback of underwater vehicles is limited battery life. This new device may allow vehicles to travel more efficiently, saving time and battery life. To create artificial lateral line sensing, the team developed tiny electronic sensors to monitor pressure differences in the water flowing around it. The robot can detect flow direction and swim upstream, or hold still while compensating for the downstream drift by measuring the speed of the water. It can also hover in the wake of an object to cut its energy use.