Fish swim by oscillating their pectoral fins forwards and backwards in a cyclic motion such that their geometric parameters and aspect ratios change according to how fast or slow a fish wants to swim; these complex motions result in a complicated hydrodynamic response. This paper focuses on the dynamic change in the shape of a fin to improve the underwater propulsion of bio-inspired mechanism. To do this, a novel transformable robotic fin has been developed to investigate how this change in shape affects the hydrodynamic forces acting on the fin. This robotic fin has a multi-link frame and a flexible surface skin where changes in shape are activated by a purpose designed multilink mechanism driven by a transformation motor. A drag platform has been designed to study the performance of this variable robotic fin. Numerous experiments were carried out to determine how various controlling modes affect the thrust capability of this fin. The kinematic parameters associated with this robotic fin include the oscillating frequency and amplitude, and the drag velocity. The fin has four modes to control the cyclic motion; these were also investigated in combination with the variable kinematic parameters. The results will help us understand the locomotion performance of this transformable robotic fin. Note that different controlling modes influence the propulsive performance of this robotic fin, which means its propulsive performance can be optimized in a changing environment by adapting its shape. This study facilitates the development of bio-inspired unmanned underwater vehicles with a very high swimming performance.
Yang, Y., Xia, Y., Qin, F., Xu, M., Li, W. & Zhang, S. (2016). Development of a bio-inspired transformable robotic fin. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, 11 (5), 056010-1-056010-12.