Navy robot jellyfish is as big as a person

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the Navy and Virginia Tech unveil a robotic jellyfish that looks like it could swallow a seal.

Cyro, the robot jellyfish
That's a whole lotta robot jellyfish. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

"We're gonna need a bigger jellyfish." I imagine that's what the Navy and researchers at Virginia Tech were thinking when they started development on Cyro, a robot jellyfish that is 5 foot 7 inches across and weighs a hefty 170 pounds.

The Navy has been into robot jellyfish before, but none have been on this scale for sheer size. This big boy is a much larger version of an earlier robot called the Robojelly, which was only about as large as a hand.

Cyro, however, has a method to its massiveness. "A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration and longer range of operation," said Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. The robot is part of a larger $5 million project funded by the U.S. Navy aimed at developing autonomous aquatic vehicles.

Cyro moves in a way that mimics natural jellyfish propulsion, making it look a bit like a squishy umbrella opening and closing. It has eight arms with a flexible silicone covering. The designers are working on making it robust enough to last for weeks or months in the ocean.

There are plenty of potential uses for a giant robot jellyfish, besides scaring the bejeezus out of swimmers. They could take part in military surveillance operations; handle cleanup duty for oil spills; or keep an eye on changes to the ocean environment. Plus, it's a giant robotic jellyfish. That's pretty cool in its own right.

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