Engineers at the Univ. of Virginia are trying to recreate the seemingly effortless but powerful swimming motions of stingrays and manta rays by building their own ray-like machine. Batoid rays, such as stingrays and manta rays, are among nature’s most elegant swimmers. They are fast, highly maneuverable, graceful, energy-efficient and can cruise — bird-like — for long distances in the deep, open ocean before coming to rest on the sea bottom.
“They are wonderful examples of optimal engineering by nature,” says Hilary Bart-Smith, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Univ. of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. They are designing an “autonomous underwater vehicle” that someday may surpass what nature has provided as a model. The vehicle has potential commercial and military applications, and could be used for undersea exploration and scientific research.