Open-Water Research With Solar-Powered Mola Robot
The engineers at AeroVironment, inspired by the ocean sunfish (also known as mola), have designed a solar-powered swimming underwater robot that gathers its own solar power. The mola usually comes to the surface and rolls to one side to bask in the sunshine; this ocean-going robot behaves similarly: it rises to the surface to catch some rays and to charge its integrated solar panels. IEEE Spectrum reports, that Mola robot has no batteries, thus the gathered energy goes directly into powering the robot’s two fins. Due to the use of an attachable flexible tail of linked solar panels, the amount of power it can generate can be increased. The robot features an onboard data logger that keeps a record of the local physical, chemical and biological water conditions. The Mola robot is meant to swim beneath the water surface at a cruising speed of two knots, when not charging. At the moment it is just a proof-of-principle experiment, which might be later used for autonomous open-water research.