Prototype Drone Flies Through The Air And “Swims” Underwater

A team of scientists from the Shanghai Research Institute for Intelligent Autonomous Systems, Tongji University, and the Unmanned Systems Research Group at the Chinese University of Hong Kong developed the TJ-FlyingFish, which is currently in its functional prototype phase.

Although aerial drones are known for their ability to cover long distances rapidly, aquatic drones are designed to explore underwater environments. The TJ-FlyingFish combines the best of both worlds as it is a quadcopter that can fly through the air and navigate through the deep sea.

During flight, all four propulsion units face upward and spin at the higher speed. However, once the TJ-FlyingFish lands on the water, the units rotate to face downward and spin at the lower speed to enable the drone to submerge. To move both horizontally and vertically while underwater, the drone adapts the angle and thrust of each propulsion unit as required.

According to Professor Ben Chen from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the drone operates autonomously, without the need for human intervention throughout its transition from air to water and vice versa. The technology behind the TJ-FlyingFish opens up possibilities for its utilization in tasks such as aerial and aquatic surveys, remote sensing, and search-and-rescue missions.

Professor Chen and his team will be showcasing their research on the drone in a paper at the upcoming 2023 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, taking place in London this May.


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