O.K. I’ve got a thing for robots that make solar panels – I always obsess over them (and take videos of them) at the solar trade shows. But I think I’ve found something a little better (hat tip IEEE Spectrum): a robot that runs off of solar power that also swims under water.
Doesn’t get much cooler than that. The robot, which is a proof of concept developed by AeroVironment (yeah, that company that makes electric car chargers), was modeled after the Ocean sunfish, which floats near the top of the surface of the water. Scientists think the sunfish does this to either bask in the sun, or invite birds to clean it, but the solar robot obviously does this to charge itself up.
Once it’s got enough power the robot swims, with its robot fins, closer to the bottom to conduct whatever sensor experiments its masters tell it to do. It’s got a data logger to collect environmental data, and a long flexible tail of solar panels to add on more power capacity.