I'm a sucker for bio-inspired engineered. This air-and-sea drone, called the Aquatic Micro Air Vehicle, or AquaMAV, had my number from the first splash.
The drone can fly up to 25mph and cover a distance of more than six miles on a charge. After it dives, it can collect water samples and then relaunch itself out of the water using a powerful gas jet.
Developed by Mirko Kovac, PhD, who directs the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London, the device is one of a growing number of multi-domain robots that can traverse disparate environments.
Dr. Kovac focuses on biologically inspired flying robots for distributed sensing in air and water. A 2015 paper he co-authored helps explain the thinking behind multimodal locomotion -- that is, the ability to move in a variety of ways.
This rise in interest is due to the enormous requirements of multidomain earthquake rescue, pollution monitoring, natural species discovery and other applications in which multi-modal locomotion can offer unprecedented advantages to robot mobility. Swimming, crawling, rolling, walking, running, jumping and flying are quite common in the animal kingdom, and such locomotion occurs in very different physical environments.
One use case for the drone is collecting water health samples at spill sites and in other dangerous zones that require monitoring. A few of these drones can be deployed from ship or shore to quickly and cheaply collect samples from a large area in a relatively small amount of time.
It's a great use of drone technology, and bridging aerodynamics and hydrodynamics is no small engineering feat.
In addition to his work at Imperial College London, Dr. Kovac is a scientific advisor to Rewired.ai, a robotics-focused venture studio in London and Switzerland with an impressive investment budget, which it's funneling toward applied science and technologies that advance machine perception.