Bio-Inspired Unmanned Underwater Vehicles


  • Isaac Chandler, Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Tyler Van Buren, Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware


Title: Bio-Inspired Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

Presentation Type: Poster




Bio-Inspired Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

Isaac Chandler, Dr. Tyler Van Buren


Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) are an emerging technology that can perform/enable a diverse range of underwater missions such as search, surveillance, point-to-point transportation, and supply. To meet this need, a concept of the biologically informed uncrewed underwater vehicle was designed. The concept draws on the most recent understanding of fish and mammal swimming mechanics and efficient propulsor design. 


The propulsors are a series of oscillating fin pairs that extend from the body, designed to produce either maximum thrust or maximum efficiency. They incorporate all the best features from the team’s current understanding of biomimetic propulsor peak performance. The main body is designed for low drag and high payload while maintaining a level of actuated flexibility commensurate with a high level of maneuverability. The fuselage acts as a control surface for yaw maneuvering, inspired by the kinematics of a sea lion. The UUV controls are responsible for generating the foil and fuselage kinematics in the most mechanically efficient, simplest, and quietest way possible.


My work is on the small-scale testbed, intended to be used to test and develop the control scheme of the vehicle. An open-loop control system has been developed, producing movement during a swim. The open-loop system had several errors, most of which significantly reduced performance. A closed-loop system is being designed to fix these errors. Instead of relying on sparse sensor data and internal counters, the new system uses encoders fit to a pre-defined periodic motion algorithm. Autonomous periodic motion of the propulsors has been obtained. This includes the ability to set varying RPM, period, amplitude, and phase offset. Developing the periodic motion algorithm will be critical to testing motion patterns for a full-scale design. Future work involves the development of navigation and maneuvering systems.