Biologically Inspired Underwater Swimming Exoskeletons

by OldSailor on October 1, 2008


diver dolphin penguin

All scientific and technological developments are taking place by observing the nature. By observing the birds, aircraft was designed. By observing the fish,  ships and submarines were designed. Recently Yves Rossy has flown across the English Channel (35 km) like a bird in less than 10 minutes with his self made jet propelled wing.

The researchers from Institute for Human and Machine Cognition of University of West Florida have keenly observed how dolphins,sea turtles and penguins move in water. They have come up with biologically inspired concept designs for underwater swimming exoskeletons.

Some of the interesting features of their study are:

  • biologically inspired concept designs have the advantages like stealth, handsfree operation and natural interface.
  • lower body concept design
    • has been developed by observing dolphin locomotion
    • has the advantages of handsfree natural swimming
    • divers with fins can achieve a maximum speed of 1.5 metres/second (m/s) and can maintain a cruising speed of 0.5 m/s
    • surprisingly dolphins can achieve maximum speed of 10 m/s and can maintain cruising speed of 2.8 m/s
    • based on Body and/or Caudal Fin (BCF) locomotion of biological swimming propulsion
    • leads to lower extremity exoskeleton
  • upper body concept design
    • has been developed by observing sea turtle and penguin locomotion
    • is more useful for recreational swimming
    • based on Median and/or Paired Fin (MPF) locomotion of biological swimming propulsion
    • leads to upper extremity exoskeleton
  • with rapid technological developments taking place in robotics, by using available energy storage devices and actuators, cruising speed of above 1 m/s and maximum speed of above 1.5 m/s is feasible to achieve with an exoskeleton.
  • cruising speed of 1 m/s can be achieved with less than 504 watts of power consumption.

Here are some sketches of exoskeleton available:

Lower extremity exoskeleton:


Front view – shows the rotary motors shown actuating knee joint and hip joint.

Rear view – Yellow cylinders on the back are battery packs for the rotary motors. Also rebreather is necessary.

Upper extremity exoskeleton: front and rear view


Out of the two exoskeleton designs, the lower extremity exoskeleton is more suitable and easy to adapt.

Fore more information on underwater swimming exoskeletons, read Concept Designs for Underwater Swimming Exoskeletons pdf document.

Post in MarineBuzz on this day a year before:

International Maritime Expo India: Inmex India 2007

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