UK scientists have invented a robot jellyfish to explore underwater environments including coral reefs and shipwrecks.
Researchers at the University of Southampton and University Edinburgh invented the so-called "soft-shelled" robot to access difficult places
Instead of using propellors, which can damage delicate sea life, the robot is propelled by a piston-powered bell that pushes it through the water in a similar way to a jellyfish or squid.
Dr. Gabriel Weymouth, a professor in Southampton University’s school of engineering, said the robot could be used to do tasks currently done by divers.
He told Daily Telegraph: "Where we're looking at things that are sensitive, or expensive or delicate, all of those are really problematic.
“Right now we always send divers into those situations, because you just can't trust underwater vehicles.
“If there's anything that you want to make sure not to break… just make sure not to put your underwater vehicle anywhere near it.”
One use of the robot could be in projects that require applying substances to corals. Normally this would require a diver to do the task without damaging the coral.
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The robot could make a lot of marine projects safer, as divers would have less need to do more dangerous dives, such as inside wrecks.
Wreck diving is particularly risky as sand and mud on the floor can be disturbed, causing a complete loss of visibility almost instantly and making finding your way back out very difficult.
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At the moment the robo-jellyfish has only been tested in a tank, and will need more work to avoid it being buffeted about by strong ocean currents and waves, a downside to its soft design.
But Dr Weymouth is hopeful that these challenges can be overcome in the next couple of years.
They said: "Where we're looking at things that are sensitive, or expensive or delicate, all of those are really problematic."
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