Engineers know that creating robots that mimic nature is one of the hardest tasks possible, but a team at Imperial College London have just gotten one step closer. They created a flying fish that comes equipped with a small pump in its rear that takes in water from the environment and then combines it with calcium-carbide in a reaction chamber to produce combustible acetylene gas, thus pushing it out of the water as the gas ignites and expands. Read more for a video and additional information.
They tested this flying fish in the lab, a lake and even a wave tank. All were successful in proving that it could escape from the water’s surface even under relatively rough conditions, as it generates a force 25 times the robot’s weight, giving it a larger chance of overcoming choppy waves.
“We have used water-reactive chemicals to reduce the materials that the robot needs to carry. Since the chamber fills passively and the environmental water acts as a piston, we can create a full combustion cycle with only one moving part, which is the pump that mixes the water with the fuel,” said lead researcher Dr Mirko Kovac, director of the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial.