Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot that can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in man-made underwater vehicles. The octopus is capable of high speeds by filling its body with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away.

Inspired by this, scientists built the robot with a 3D-printed skeleton with no moving parts and no energy storage device other than a thin elastic outer hull. The robot is inflated with water and then rapidly deflates by shooting the water out through its base to power its propulsion and acceleration, despite starting from a non-streamlined shape. It works like blowing up a balloon and then releasing it to fly around the room. However, the skeleton inside keeps the balloon tight and the final shape streamlined, while fins on the back keep it going straight.

The robot is capable of accelerating up to ten body lengths in less than a second. Making the robot bigger would improve its fast-starting performance. This could have an impact in engineering fields where drag is critical, such as airplane wing design.

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