Flying fish were the inspiration for an unmanned seaplane with a 7-foot wingspan developed at the University of Michigan. The autonomous craft is believed to be the first seaplane that can initiate and perform its own takeoffs and landings on water.
Funded by the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), it is designed to advance the agency’s "persistent ocean surveillance" program.
Engineering researchers from U-M recently returned from sea trials off the coast of Monterey, Calif., where they demonstrated the craft’s capability to DARPA officials.
"The vehicle did very well," said Hans Van Sumeren, associate director of the U-M Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories. "To take off and land in the water was a big effort. We did it 22 times."
The researchers named the robotic plane Flying Fish after its inspiration. Guy Meadows, director of the U-M Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories, conceived of the design while out on the water. "I saw these fish pop up and soar over the waves," Meadows said.