Servo Motors in the Sea

The bottom of the ocean is probably one of the last places you would expect to find a robot. Robots are supposed to be in dry, controlled environments where their precious electric circuits can stay safe from moisture and corrosion, rather than in a wet and briny sea. While it’s true that industrial machines – like the ones you would find on a factory floor – wouldn’t fare too well on the ocean floor, there are many robots that do just fine in the sea.

Here are three ocean robots that thrive underwater.

A new ocean robot from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology could help marine robots with mobility issues. Researchers drew on the cuttlefish for inspiration, and the robot uses four servo controlled fins for precise and accurate movement. The robot is quiet, nimble, and fish-like enough that it won’t frighten the fish away, making it ideal for filming marine life.

Not all ocean robots are designed to be subtle and agile, however. The Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are perfecting on what they call the Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm (JEROS), and it’s as terrifying as it sounds… if you’re a jellyfish. It’s a robot designed to kill jellyfish, which are becoming a problem on many beaches, damaging seaside power plants, fisheries, ocean infrastructures, and posing a threat to beachgoers. JEROS essentially pulls large numbers of jellyfish through a fan turning them into, well, jelly.

Keeping along with the theme of killer ocean robots is the COTSbot, a robot designed to kill starfish by lethal injection. The Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) is doing a number on the Great Barrier Reef of the coast of Australia. The COTS population has been booming for more than half a century, and are responsible for 40 percent of the coral reef’s loss. The COTSbot is an autonomous robot that delivers poison to the COTS along the reef. Thankfully, it can tell the difference between a starfish and anything that is not a starfish.

All three of the above mentioned robots rely on servos to carry out their motions. The servos in these ocean robots are quite different from the big Indramat servos used for industrial motion control on land, though. You probably shouldn’t take your motion control system underwater.