Evolutionary multiobjective design of a flexible caudal fin for robotic fish


Robotic fish accomplish swimming by deforming their bodies or other fin-like appendages. As an emerging class of embedded computing system, robotic fish are anticipated to play an important role in environmental monitoring, inspection of underwater structures, tracking of hazardous wastes and oil spills, and the study of live fish behaviors. While integration of flexible materials (into the fins and/or body) holds the promise of improved swimming performance (in terms of both speed and maneuverability) for these robots, such components also introduce significant design challenges due to the complex material mechanics and hydrodynamic interactions. The problem is further exacerbated by the need for the robots to meet multiple objectives (e.g., both speed and energy efficiency). In this paper, we propose an evolutionary multiobjective optimization approach to the design and control of a robotic fish with a flexible caudal fin. Specifically, we use the NSGA-II algorithm to investigate morphological and control parameter values that optimize swimming speed and power usage. Several evolved fin designs are validated experimentally with a small robotic fish, where fins of different stiffness values and sizes are printed with a multi-material 3D printer. Experimental results confirm the effectiveness of the proposed design approach in balancing the two competing objectives.

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Bioinspiration & biomimetics