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Flow sensing and control to improve maneuverability

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Investigators: Michael TRIANTAFYLLOU (MIT)
Students: Amy GAO (MIT), James Schulmeister (MIT)

Description: Marine animals are equipped with an extensive network of flow and tactile sensors that enable high swimming performance.  They are more maneuverable, more efficient, and swim safely in more dangerous environments than man-made vehicles.  Our work focuses on improving vehicle performance by developing control schemes that utilize bio-inspired near-field flow sensors.  We study the interaction between a vehicle and its local flow to develop systems that reduce drag, extract energy from the flow, stabilize a vehicle in unsteady currents, and improve maneuverability.  These control designs could ultimately allow for faster, more maneuverable underwater vehicles which are more robust to disturbances and extremely dynamic environments.​

​​​​​​​Flow sensing and control to improve maneuverability

​Marine animals are equipped with an extensive network of flow and tactile sensors that enable high swimming performance.  They are more maneuverable, more efficient, and swim safely in more dangerous environments than man-made vehicles.  Our work focuses on improving vehicle performance by developing control schemes that utilize bio-inspired near-field flow sensors.  We study the interaction between a vehicle and its local flow to develop systems that reduce drag, extract energy from the flow, stabilize a vehicle in unsteady currents, and improve maneuverability.  These control designs could ultimately allow for faster, more maneuverable underwater vehicles which are more robust to disturbances and extremely dynamic environments.


​ Simulated interaction between a dolphin and a larger moving body. By riding the pressure field in front of the larger body, the dolphin only needs to expend a minimal amount of energy to control its position, using local pressure sensing to stabilize itself within the field.


Simulated flow past a circular cylinder with opening flaps.  The opened flaps delay flow separation to reduce hydrodynamic resistance.  High performance of the drag reduction mechanism requires precise control of the flaps with feedback of the local flow field.