Have you ever watched a manta ray swim in the water, and marveled at how smooth its actions were? They seem to fly as they slide and glide about in the water, making underwater propulsion seem like a simple feat.
In fact, the manta ray’s movements are so smooth and efficient that the University of Virginia built a robot just to study how the rays do it. Their project, dubbed appropriately enough “Mantabot”, sports a silicon body and wings while the electronics are tucked inside. Mantabot is remote controlled by wires, and the robot can do complex turns and rather relaxing to watch navigation through its watery domain. According to Prof Hilary Bart-Smith,
We are studying a creature to understand how it is able to swim so beautifully, and we are hoping to improve upon it. We are learning from nature, but we also are innovating; trying to move beyond emulation.
In the end, the project hopes to pave the way for new robotic devices that more efficient and capable than anything we have today. Not to mention, they are really relaxing to watch. Check out the mantabot in action in the video below.
The genus Manta contains two species of manta rays: the Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) and the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Manta birostris), which are the largest species of the rays in the family Mobulidae, and the largest rays in the world. Oceanic mantas reach at least 7 metres (23 ft) in width and there are anecdotal reports of even larger specimens, while reef mantas reach about 5.5 metres (18 ft) in width.