Flying Fish Robot

Named after its biological inspiration, the Flying Fish Robot is a sampling bot that can launch itself into the air from the water’s surface. Developed by researchers at the Imperial College of London, this 2019 bio-bot uses water from its surroundings to create a gas that allows it to launch up to 26 metres through the air from the water’s surface. Using only 0.2 grams of calcium carbide in its combustion chamber, water is pumped in and creates a burnable acetylene gas that propels the Flying Fish Robot into an airborne glide. Given the difficulty of creating enough energy to propel objects from the water into the air, researchers needed to make the robot as lightweight as possible. Therefore, the Flying Fish Robot only has one moving part: the pump that brings in water from its surroundings. The force generated from the reaction is 25 times the robot’s weight, allowing it to operate under rough conditions. Created with the intent to collect samples in dangerous or unreachable waterborne environments, the Flying Fish Robot can be used to monitor ocean pollution or flooding. While its small size is an asset, it is also an impediment as fewer water samples can be acquired in one run. Nevertheless, the robot has been successful in controlled and outdoor settings, and British researchers are working with partners in Switzerland to conduct field trials in ocean settings, with the aim of monitoring areas such as coral reefs and offshore energy platforms. With the ability to maneuver such a wide variety of environments, such bio-inspired bots have the potential of facilitating sampling efforts in a diverse range of research and monitoring efforts.

Zufferey, R., Ancel, A. O., Farinha, A., Siddall, R., Armanini, S. F., Nasr, M., . . . Kovac, M. (2019). “Consecutive aquatic jump-gliding with water-reactive fuel“, Science Robotics.


Artificial Life, Ecological Monitoring, Monitoring, Pollution