What if robots could lead fish away from major danger zones like, say, a massive oil spill off the Gulf Coast? It might be possible with the launch of Maurizio Porfiri’s remote-controlled fish-like robots! The assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University believes that his devices could act as group leaders for schools of fish, directing them to safer waters.

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Apparently, fish are willing to follow robots if they move silently and with the same movements of real fish. One day, Porfiri hopes that his robotic fish could lead real fish away from power plant turbines, direct birds to safe wintering grounds, and even lead humans to safe areas in the event of a fire.

But there is still plenty of work to be done before Porfiri can unleash his robots upon the world. The robots can’t yet dive or surface, for example, and they still require batteries. Eventually, the robots might scavenge energy from vibrations in the water. If the robotic leaders succeed, this will be biomimicry at its finest.

+ NYU Poly