In order to design our robot, we had to draw inspiration from nature. We were even fortunate enough to be the 2019 Ray of Hope prize winner from the Biomimicry Institute. Below you can learn about our three biological champions.
Blind Cave fish
Blind cave fish use a lateral line system to sense changes in water pressure, allowing them to see their surroundings. This system contains a series of neuromasts, comprised of hair cells covered by a jellylike cupula. Pressure changes bend the cupula and in turn bend the hair cells inside.
Emulating this principle, our flappers act as neuromasts. The silicone flapper, mimicking the cupula, is sensitive to changes in water pressure, being pulled by suction forces inside the pipe. That tug is then identified by the small flexible sensor inside, mimicking the hair cells, sending a signal to the robot brain to identify a leak.
Moon Jellyfish, one of the most efficient swimmers in the ocean, pulsate an umbrella shaped bell to propel itself by pushing the surrounding water. That pulse also creates a vortex of current that is caught in the umbrella and continues to push the jellyfish 80% farther while expending no energy.
Similarly, our robot uses umbrellas located at the front and rear flapper connections. The current from the pipes operational flow, similar to the vortex created as a jellyfish swims, is caught in these umbrellas. This principle allows our robot to flow through water pipe networks efficiently without expending any energy.
Octopuses have a soft invertebrate bodies, which allow them to squeeze through tiny crevices, cracks, and holes. Also, their tentacles are lined with powerful suckers that they use for gripping prey and mobility
Our robot is soft and has no joints. Because of this, its body can bend in various ways and even shrink to 50% its original size, allowing it to maneuver through complex pipe networks. Like the suckers on octopus tentacles, our robot also has an inlaid cup pattern on its flappers, helping maintain contact with the pipe wall and identify leaks.