Fishy stuff from Japan

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has started production of the world’s first, radio-controlled robotic fish. MHI is creating the lifelike creature in the hopes of marketing it and similar animatronic system to amusement parks and aquariums.

The completed fish, in the likeness of a coelacanth, as well as a special water tank and a computerized control system, are scheduled to be delivered to the ‘Aquatom,’ in March 2001; this is a 3,000-square meter science museum currently being built in Fukui Prefecture, Japan, that is due to open in June 2001. The robot fish will be exhibited to the public from June at the entrance hall.

The artificial coelacanth, measuring 70 centimeters long and weighing 12 kg, will be powered by an internal battery and controlled automatically by a computer. MHI has employed its proprietary ‘elastic oscillating fin propulsion control system’ to reproduce the lifelike swimming motion of a real fish. The technology synchronizes fin movements on the fish to control both thrust and direction. The body of the fish is partly made of silicone plastic, an elastic material.

Compared with earlier prototypes developed by the company, the production model of the fish has ventral fins, in addition to pectoral and a caudal fins, and while this has made it more difficult to control the balance of the fish, the end result is superior lifelike movement.

When its battery runs low, the fish will automatically swim to a recharging unit, a feature that eliminates the need for an operator during regular exhibition of the fish.