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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Robot shark gives aquarium a buzz
Roboshark
The robot shark is operated by remote control
The world's only robotic swimming shark is moving into an aquarium in Devon, along with four live sharks.

The two metre (6 ft 6 in) long creature, called Roboshark2, will spend up to three years alongside sand tiger sharks at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.

Modelled on the Pacific Grey reef shark, the robot swims using a combination of sensors and thrusters.

Aquarium staff will monitor the sharks' reaction to their robotic companion to learn more about their behaviour and intelligence.

It is a fantastic example of how technology can be applied to help us
Kelvin Boot,
National Marine Aquarium
The 35 kg robot has an electronic "brain" which dictates its swimming patterns, speed, depth and direction.

Roboshark2 can swim in all directions at a speed of three miles per hour, similar to the cruising speed of real sharks.

Kelvin Boot, head of education at the National Marine Aquarium, said: "This is a very sophisticated piece of underwater technology.

"It is a fantastic example of how technology can be applied to help us understand more about the oceans."

The robot can swim for four hours before its batteries need recharging and withstand water pressure up to a depth of 30 metres.

Clumsy cameras

If necessary, the creature's inventor, British underwater designer Andrew Sneath, can override its controls from the surface.

Rolf Williams, interpretation officer at the aquarium, said the robot was a ground-breaking way of learning more about sharks.

He said: "Until now we had to rely on divers watching them with cameras which is very clumsy and tends to change the sharks' natural behaviour."

"This is fantastically useful for getting close to the animals in a way that humans can't. It really is the future for answering questions about marine life."

The first Roboshark, built for the BBC series Smart Sharks, contained a hidden camera which filmed live sharks in their natural habitats.

Roboshark1 will go on display at the aquarium.




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