A research team led by Chang Liu at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC, Champaign, IL) has built a sensor for underwater vehicles equivalent to a sensory organ found on fish called the lateral line. In fish, the lateral line provides guidance for synchronized swimming, obstacle avoidance, and prey/predator detection and tracking. Equipped with an artificial lateral line, a submarine or autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) could similarly detect and track moving underwater targets. Collisions with moving or stationary objects could also be avoided using the UIUC sensor.

In tests, the UIUC artificial lateral line was able to localize a nearby underwater vibrating source, and could detect a hydrodynamic wake (such as the wake formed behind a propeller-driven submarine) for long-distance tracking.

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