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Designing future underwater vehicles: principles and mechanisms of the weakly electric fish

MacIver, Malcolm A. and Fontaine, Ebraheem and Burdick, Joel W. (2004) Designing future underwater vehicles: principles and mechanisms of the weakly electric fish. IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, 29 (3). pp. 651-659. ISSN 0364-9059.

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Future underwater vehicles will be increasingly called upon to work in cluttered environments and to interact with their surroundings. These vehicles will need sensors that work efficiently at short range and be highly maneuverable at low speed. To obtain insights into principles and mechanisms of low-speed operation in cluttered environments, we examine a fish that excels in this regime, the black ghost knifefish Apteronotus albifrons. This fish hunts in dark or turbid water using a short-range self-generated electric field to sense its surroundings. Coupled with this unique mode of sensing is an unusual ribbon fin propulsion system that confers high multidirectional maneuverability at low speeds. To better understand the relationship between body morphology and common maneuvers of this fish, we utilized an idealized ellipsoidal body model, Kirchhoff's equations, and an optimal control algorithm for generating trajectories. We present evidence that common fish trajectories are optimal, and that these trajectories complement the sensory abilities of the fish. We also discuss prototypes of the sensing and propulsion systems of the fish with a view to providing alternative approaches for underwater vehicle design where high maneuverability in geometrically complex environments is needed.

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Additional Information:© 2004 IEEE. Manuscript received July 18, 2003. This work was supported by the Engineering Research Centers Program, National Science Foundation, under Award EEC-9402726. The authors thank J. Radford for many useful discussions and help through a number of technical difficulties. They thank R. Murray and M. Milam for making NTG available for the optimal control analysis, and B. Dunbar for help with parameterizing the equations of motion and NTG coding. They thank E. Anderson for his fabrication and assembly of the ribbon fin prototype. They also thank M. Gharib for use of his facilities in testing the robotic ribbon fin.
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Subject Keywords:Active sensing, autonomous underwater vehicles, backward swimming, biologically inspired robotics, biorobotics, electric fish, electrosensory, gymnotiform, knifefish, locomotion, maneuverability, remotely operated vehicles, ribbon fin
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190621-143653023
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Official Citation:M. A. MacIver, E. Fontaine and J. W. Burdick, "Designing future underwater vehicles: principles and mechanisms of the weakly electric fish," in IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 651-659, July 2004. doi: 10.1109/JOE.2004.833210
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:96635
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Jun 2019 18:21
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 21:24

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