Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created an underwater robot that can catch marine vessels attempting to smuggle drugs, firearms and other contraband items, Live Science reported.
The small robot has an oval-shaped design with a flat surface. This side of the bot allows it to press against the hull of the ship.
Using ultrasound technology, the robot scans the bottom of the ship and monitors what's inside it. Specifically, the robot checks for fake hulls and propeller shafts, which are hollowed storage spaces used by smugglers to hide illegal items.
The ultrasound sensors are stored inside the waterproof compartment of the robot. This takes up half of the space inside the bot, according to Fox News.
The other half contains its propulsion system which is powered by a lithium-ion battery. This enables the robot to keep operating underwater for around 40 minutes.
Through special ports on one side of the robot, the propulsion system only produces small wakes, which makes it perfect for stealth operations such as checking the ships of suspected smugglers.
According to Sampriti Bhattacharyya, the co-designer of the robot and a graduate student at MIT, their creation is relatively cheap to produce and maintain because parts made from 3D printing, MIT News reported.
"It's very expensive for port security to use traditional robots for every small boat coming into the port," he said. "If this is cheap enough - if I can get this out for $600, say - why not just have 20 of them doing collaborative inspection?"
"And if it breaks, it's not a big deal," he added. "It's very easy to make."
Bhattacharyya explained that the robot is still in its prototype stage which means it can be improved to increase its efficiency.
Despite being a prototype, military officials have already expressed their interests in using the robot to conduct various kinds of underwater operations.
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