Illinois scientists use sensors to mimic fish navigation system

Published 26 February 2007

Micro-fabricated flow sensors detect the hydrodynamic wake formed by the craft’s propeller; applications in the UUV and submarine markets; system supplements sonar

Unmanned underwater vehicle enthusiasts take note: researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered an artificial way to mimic the complicated sensory system fish use to navigate underwater. Known as lateral lines, the sensory organs run along the sides of their bodies and aid in hunting, defense, and synchronized swimming. Obviously, hulking submarines and UUVs are bigger than fish, but according to professor Chang Liu, that is no reason why there should not be a sensor-based equivalent. His DARPA-funded system is made of micro-fabricated flow sensors that detect the hydrodynamic wake formed by the craft’s propeller. “By detecting changes in water pressure and movement, the device can supplement sonar and vision systems in submarines and underwater robots,” said Liu.

read more in this Live Science report