Researchers at the University of Southampton, MIT and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology are developing an underwater vehicle that is inspired by octopus' method of movement. Octopus movement is reminiscent of balloons which, when inflated and released, shoot away very quickly. Octopi do something similar albeit with water.
This modus operandi is now being copied in the form of a soft-body miniature underwater vehicle fitted with a balloon system that takes in and expels water, moving the robot forward.
The vehicle is equipped with a rigid polycarbonate skeleton covered in an outer elastic balloon envelope. An external pump sends water into the balloon. A set of rear fins ensures the robot moves in a straight line instead of buzzing all over the place like a balloon.
This innovative project is yet another example of how the animal kingdom can lend inspiration to modern-day robotics.