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How Sea Lions Are Inspiring Stealthy, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Sea lions may not be the fastest-swimming creature, but their clap-and-glide flipper motion propels them through water while leaving virtually no wake. Underwater propulsion that leaves little traceable wake structure while producing high levels of thrust is a highly desired goal. Megan Leftwich, a George Washington University professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is developing a soft robotic fore-flipper that mimics the animal's movement, hoping it will aid mechanical innovation in the intelligence community.