Tag Archives: Autonomous Robot

Watch this Arduino-controlled, autonomous robot swim underwater

This robot is fincredible!

A team from the Control Systems and Robotics Laboratory at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete has developed a bio-inspired, fin-propelled robot that can swim underwater.


Each fin is comprised of three individually actuated fin rays, which are interconnected by an elastic membrane. An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) at its core runs custom real-time firmware that implements two Central Pattern Generator (CPG) networks to produce the undulatory motion profile for the robot’s fins, through which propulsion is achieved.


The prototype, which is fully untethered and energetically autonomous, also integrates an IMU/AHRS for navigation purposes, a Bluetooth module for wireless communication and a camera to capture underwater video. This footage includes experiments conducted in a lab’s test tank to investigate closed loop motion control strategies, as well as clips from actual sea trials. The robot is powered by a 7.4V LiPo battery.

This autonomous robot feeds on filthy water

The Row-bot is a self-powered robot that can eliminate pollutants and contaminants from water.

Don’t expect to find the tiny robot pictured below swimming in any bathtub or pool anytime soon; in fact, you won’t probably won’t find it in any clean body of water. That’s right, the Row-bot thrives on pollution — the more, the merrier.


Inspired by beetles and other insects like the water boatmen bug who feed off nutrients found in the dirty water it swims in, researchers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have developed an autonomous machine with hopes of eliminating pollutants and other dangerous contaminants.

When it is hungry, the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water. It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients, before using the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity via bio-inspired mechanisms. That same electrical energy keeps the Row-bot propelling to a new location for another gulp of H2O.

In order to produce the most efficient movement possible, the researchers tried to mimic the water boatman whose legs are covered by swimming hairs that span laterally to maximize drag during the power stroke and collapse to minimize drag during the recovery stroke. But whereas the insect has hair-covered legs, the Row-bot’s propulsion mechanism is comprised of a 3D-printed paddle powered by a tiny 0.75 watt brushed DC motor.


Row-bot consists of a 3D-printed composite structure with a rigid frame supporting an elastic membrane — each paddle is stretched out to increase the paddle surface area during the power stroke. The membrane has a hinge that changes the angle of attack on the part of the paddle that remains underwater during the recovery stroke to reduce its frontal area, and therefore, its drag.

This robot has plenty of practical applications, such as remote sensing and environmental monitoring. Row-bot can be used in any kind of water, from fresh to salt to waste water. For instance, they can be thrown in a polluted pond and rove for months, while feeding on the filth and cleaning as they go.

“The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long-term self-power. Most robots require re-charging or refuelling, often requiring human involvement,” explains Jonathan Rossiter, Professor of Robotics at the University of Bristol and BRL.

Just think of the possibilities… Head over to the Row-bot’s official paper here to read more.

BeachBot is an autonomous robot that creates giant sand art

Leave it to Disney to magically turn the beach into a giant Etch-a-Sketch. 

Sure, robots that could paint, doodle and write are nothing new. However, a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich has conceived a mobile bot capable of autonomously creating giant sand drawings by dragging a rake-like tool on the beach.


The aptly named BeachBot — which measures 60cm in length and 40cm in width and height — features “balloon” tires that traverse sandy beaches without leaving any noticeable tracks. To provide optimal mobility and robustness, a three-wheel arrangement with differential drive back wheels and a steered wheel in the front are used. Drawing is done through a controllable rake consisting of seven movable parts actuated by servo motors, attached at the rear of the robot.

Instead of GPS, the BeachBot is equipped with a system like that used by many of today’s robotic vacuum cleaners. The desired canvas is marked by four reflective vertical poles at each corner. In order to draw precisely, the BeachBot requires accurate localization, and must first determine its position on the drawing area using depth sensing and IMU technology.

It should be noted that the gadget is, in fact, embedded with an ATmega32U4 — which is responsible for connecting the ESCONs of the BeachBot.


Artwork can either be preprogrammed to draw lines or create block-filled areas via its accompanying app, or manually to transform the beach into a real-life sketchpad. At the moment, the Wi-Fi-enabled BeachBot only works on 10 x 10m canvases with each drawing taking just about 10 minutes. In addition, individually controllable pins can be raised and lowered to create thick or thin lines in the sand.

What will the Roomba-sized, turtle shell-like bot be used for? Potential applications may include drawing large advertisements, designating private beaches, or allowing resort guests to reserve an exclusive spot.


BeachBot is only one of many Disney Research projects in the area of mobile robotics, ranging from path-planning and robot choreography to localization and human-robot interaction. Intrigued? You can learn all about the creation here. In the meantime, you can watch it in action below!