Manta Rays and Biomimetics

You probably know that there are some mighty strange things living in the oceans, and we have not even explored all of them yet. An odd flat fish thing that is somewhat familiar is the manta ray. Rays are related to sharks, but without the bad attitude. Sharks, dolphins, and so on move from side to side, but mantas have that interesting motion that (to me) looks a bit like it's flying underwater. One endangered species has the unfortunate moniker of "devil fish" or "giant devil ray" because some folks thought it looked creepy. Scientists wanted to study the motion of mantas for biomimetics uses. The sting ray was not mentioned in the report that I saw.

The motion of the manta ray is being studied by scientists for use in underwater vehicle designs.
Credit: flikr / jon hanson (CC BY-SA 2.0)
If you recollect that biomimetics is the way scientists study organisms in nature so they can imitate them for our use, then you recollect rightly. Someone got the notion that mantas have a way of moving that, if successfully imitated (although without credit to the Master Engineer who designed them, Darwin forbid!), scientific equipment might be moved around in very deep waters. Then we could find some more of those odd things that live way down yonder.
“Mantas are everything one could want in an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)” wrote a commentator in Science journal, describing it as “the envy of engineers”. Consider the manta’s manoeuvrability, for example—currently the best robotic submarines have a turning radius of about 0.7 body lengths but the manta’s is just 0.27 body lengths. And while other marine organisms have already inspired significant advances in AUV design, the powerful-yet-smooth ‘ride’ of the manta is now recognized as a particularly desirable target for robotic mimicry.
To finish reading the other 3/4 of this short article, click on "Manta motion marvel".