Tech Robotic Jellyfish_00012015.jpg
Robotic jellyfish may be underwater spy
01:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Researchers develop a robotic jellyfish that could be used for undersea surveillance

The robot has a white silicone covering that acts as a disguise

It's been developed by grad students at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering

The robot is still years away from being deployed in the ocean

CNN  — 

It’s no James Bond. But then again, 007 probably couldn’t patrol the ocean depths, in disguise, for hours at a time.

Meet Cyro, the robotic jellyfish.

Designed by a team of researchers at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, the robot is 5 feet, 7 inches wide and weighs 170 pounds but is stealthy enough to one day be used as an underwater spy for the military.

Cyro is part of a nationwide, multi-university $5 million project funded by U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research.

The jellyfish prototype is 5 feet, 7 inches wide and 170 pounds. A silicone "jelly" covering fits over its mechanical parts.

The goal is to create self-powering, autonomous robots that could be used for underwater surveillance or to monitor the ocean environment.

“We are trying to get it as close as possible to the natural animal,” said Alex Villanueva, a Virginia Tech doctoral student in mechanical engineering. “The way it looks, the way it moves, the general feel of it.”

The Navy has been involved with robotic jellyfish in the past, but none has been of this magnitude.

Virginia Tech’s research team, led by mechanical engineering professor Shashank Priya, unveiled an early prototype called RoboJelly in 2012. But that robot was only as big as a man’s hand.

“One reason to develop a larger vehicle is payload—more room to put instruments, allowing you to achieve more complex missions,” Villanueva said. “But another important thing is that as your robot gets bigger, it actually becomes more efficient … biologists have shown that the animals, as they get bigger, actually use less energy going from point A to point B.”

Cyro, named after the jellyfish Cyanea capillata, has eight aluminum arms and a white, flexible silicone covering. It is designed to mimic the way a real jellyfish propels itself through the water.

A control box in the middle of the jellyfish serves as the robot’s “brain.” The robot does not currently carry a camera, but researchers say one could be added, along with other monitoring instruments.

“Cyro has a basic control system. We program Cyro beforehand and basically map out what we want it to do. So when we turn on Cyro in the water, it follows this mission that we pre-programmed,” Villanueva said.