Estonian-invented robot turtle showcased in Milan
U-CAT, an underwater robot designed to penetrate shipwrecks, was presented in Milan EXPO.
The U-CAT was built by the Center for Biorobotics of the Tallinn University of Technology, with the financial help coming from the EU-funded research project ARROWS, which is developing technologies to assist underwater archaeologists.
The U-CAT’s locomotion principle is similar to sea turtles – hence its name, “robot turtle”. Independently driven four flippers make the robot highly manoeuvrable – it can swim forward and backward, up and down and turn on spot in all directions. Manoeuvrability is a desirable feature when inspecting confined spaces such as shipwrecks. The robot carries an onboard camera and the video footage can be later used to reconstruct the underwater site. It can dive into the waters 100 meters deep and operate unaided.
“The U-CAT was specifically designed to meet the end-user requirements. Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. U-CAT’s fin propulsors can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck,” said Taavi Salumäe, the designer of the U-CAT concept and a researcher in the Biorobotics Center.
Salumäe added that underwater robots are nowadays mostly exploited in the oil and gas industry and in defense. “But these robots are too big and also too expensive to be used for diving inside wrecks. Shipwrecks are explored by divers, but this is an expensive and time-consuming procedure and often too dangerous for the divers to undertake. The U-CAT is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to divers,” he said.