Robotic tuna developed for Homeland Security

September 25, 2012

BIOSwimmer (credit: (Credit: Boston Engineering Corporation)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is funding the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) modeled on the tuna, called the BIOSwimmer.

BIOSwimmer is designed for high maneuverability in harsh environments, with a flexible aft section and appropriately placed sets of pectoral and other fins.

For cluttered and hard-to-reach underwater places where inspection is necessary, the tuna-inspired frame design is optimal. It can inspect the interior voids of ships such as flooded bilges and tanks, and hard-to-reach external areas such as steerage, propulsion and sea chests. It can also inspect and protect harbors and piers, perform area searches and carry out other security missions.

Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group (ASG) in Waltham, Massachusetts is developing the BIOSwimmer for S&T. “It’s designed to support a variety of tactical missions and with its interchangeable sensor payloads and reconfigurable Operator Controls, can be optimized on a per-mission basis” says the Director of ASG, Mike Rufo.

BIOSwimmer is battery-powered and designed for long-duration operation. Like other unmanned underwater vehicles, it uses an onboard computer suite for navigation, sensor processing, and communications. Its Operator Control Unit is laptop-based and provides intuitive control and simple, mission-defined versatility for the user. The internal components and external sensing are designed for the challenging environment of constricted spaces and high viscosity fluids.