When you imagine a high-stakes Navy spy mission, you might think of something like a shark with laser beam on its head, a swift and graceful manta ray, or even some sort of mechanical fish. Instead, engineers at Virginia Tech have created Cryo, a five-and-a-half-foot, eight-armed autonomous jellyfish robot that undulates with the help of a large silicone hat. It’s not as frighting as an animal outfitted with an intimidating array of teeth, but the battery-powered jellyfish uses energy-efficient undulations to move its 170 lb bulk.
By pulsing instead of swimming, Virginia Tech‘s Cryo robot is able to conserve a huge amount of energy. Its batteries allow it to work for months without having to recharge. Its massive size lets it travel longer distances than smaller models, and its resemblance to a gelatinous sea creature makes for the perfect camouflage. The jelly uses software and sensors to navigate.
Cryo’s applications range from ocean monitoring to cleaning up marine disasters, and the US Navy has its sights on the robot for reconnaissance missions (it was developed in part due to a grant from the Office of Naval Research). Cryo is still years away from the open ocean, but the robot could one day shed light on complex matters of international intrigue.