Robot Fish Take Over Schools, Lead Real Fish To Safety

A researcher in New York is building fish robots that infiltrate schools of fish and take them over. The cyberfish could be used to lead fish away from unsafe underwater turbines or other hazards. The same mathematical models that drive them could conceivably be used to lure birds to new wintering grounds or even to herd mammals, the researchers say.

Maurizio Porfiri, an assistant professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, studied the fluid dynamics of leader fish to build a realistic fishbot. The university says the technology could even be expanded to tap energy from the movement of water to charge its batteries.

Scientists know plenty about the flocking and schooling behavior of fish and birds, but the way in which certain individuals become leaders is less understood. Porfiri had to research “leader fish” dynamics to understand how their behavior affects an entire school.

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