Conference paper Open Access

Is there a case for emulating a fish or other sea borne creatures for propulsion of underwater vehicles?

Rana, R K; Johnson, N; Dongare, P; Barve, S

Fish and other sea borne creatures have invoked interest in the minds of many professionals to study how they propel themselves in water and whether similar principles can be applied to the design of underwater vehicles.

Adopting these principles for propulsion had been a challenge some decades ago, but with the current technological progress in robotics, design analysis, advanced computing, precision manufacturing, 3D printing, sensors, actuation, image processing etc have rekindled an interest in this field, especially in the Indian context.

Moreover, with the thrust on development of unmanned autonomous systems, especially for the naval warfare, there is a case for looking at an efficient way to propel such vehicles that can stay underwater for a longer duration, move and navigate faster than those traditionally shaped and propelled by screw propellers or pump jets.

This paper looks at some of the basics of fish locomotion; technology trends; examples of the current developments; benefits of emerging technologies, investigate performance of some basic shapes of caudal fin of fish with the help of modern analytical tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics and the way ahead.

Files (3.8 MB)
Name Size
INEC 2018 Paper 024 Rana FINAL.pdf
3.8 MB Download
  • Ahrens, James, Geveci, Berk, Law, Charles, ParaView: An End-User Tool for Large Data Visualization, Visualization Handbook, Elsevier, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0123875822

  • Andrew D. Marchese, Cagdas D. Onal and Daniela Rus (2014) "Autonomous Soft Robotic Fish Capable of Escape Manoeuvres Using Fluidic Elastomer Actuators Soft Robotics"

  • Andrew D. Marchese, Robert K. Katzschmann, and Daniela Rus, 2015, "A Recipe for Soft Fluidic Elastomer Robots", Soft Robotics, Volume 2, Number 1, 2015, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., DOI: 10.1089/soro.2014.0022

  • Bandyopadhyay P.R. "Highly Maneuverable Biorobotic Underwater Vehicles. In: Dhanak M.R., Xiros N.I. (eds) Springer Handbook of Ocean Engineering". Springer, Cham, 2016.

  • DARPA Plans to Develop "Flying Submarine",

  • Dhondt, G. "The Finite Element Method for Three-Dimensional Thermomechanical Applications", Wiley, 2004.

  • Dr. David M. Lane, Michael Sfakiotakis, Dr. J. Bruce C. Davies, "Review of Fish Swimming Modes for Aquatic Locomotion", Submitted to the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, December 1998.

  • Engineers Are Building Robotic Fin For Submarines.

  • Eric Tytell, 2011, "Pulsed Wakes Are (Sometimes) Better Than Steady Jets", Journal of Experimental Biology

  • EvoLogics Bionic Observation and Survey System (BOSS) Manta Ray - the stunningly lifelike subsea robot for automated monitoring, 28 Jul 2017. –

  • F. E. Fish and G. V. Lauder, "Passive and active flow control by swimming fishes and mammals," Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech. 38, 193–224 (2006).

  • Fish, F. E., Schreiber, C. M., Moored, K. W., Liu, G., Dong, H., & Bart-Smith, H. (2016), "Hydrodynamic Performance of Aquatic Flapping: Efficiency of Underwater Flight in the Manta" .Aerospace, 3(3), 1-24.

  • Global Marine Trends 2030, published in 2013, available freely at

  • H.-J. Bungartz, F. Lindner, B. Gatzhammer, M. Mehl, K. Scheufele, A. Shukaev, and B. Uekermann: preCICE - A Fully Parallel Library for Multi-Physics Surface Coupling., Computers and Fluids,Elsevier,141, 250–258, 2016.

  • H.J.-P. Morand and R. Ohayon, "Fluid-Structure Interaction: Applied Numerical Methods", Wiley, 1995, ISBN 978-0-471-94459-1











  • - 21 March 2018

  • - 14 March 2014

  • J. A. Sparenberg, "Survey of the mathematical theory of fish locomotion," J. Eng. Math. 44(4), 395–448 (2002).

  • J.J. Videler, Fish Swimming. London: Chapman & Hall, 1993.

  • Jacob Aron, Robotic fish shoal sniffs out pollution in harbours, Innovation - 22 May 2012,

  • James L Sumich, John Francis Morrissey, "Introduction to Biology of Marine Life", eight edition, Jones and Bartlett Publishes, USA

  • Jamie M. Anderson and Narender K. Chhabra, "Maneuvering and Stability Performance of a Robotic Tuna", Integrative and Comparative Biology Feb 2002 : Vol. 42, Issue 1, pg(s) 118- 126,

  • Joris Degroote, Klaus-Jürgen Bathe, Jan Vierendeels, "Performance of A New Partitioned Procedure Versus A Monolithic Procedure In Fluid–Structure Interaction"

  • K. Singh and T. J. Pedley, "The hydrodynamics of flexible-body manoeuvres in swimming fish," Physica D: Nonlinear Phenom. 237(14–17), 2234–2239 (2008).

  • Kohannim S, Iwasaki T. (2014) "Analytical insights into optimality and resonance in fish swimming", J. R. Soc. Interface 1120131073

  • Koichi Hirata, Swimming Speeds of Some Common Fish, October 1, 1999,

  • Kwang Jin Kim, Xiaobo Tan, Hyouk Ryeol Choi, David Pugal, "Biomimetic Robotic Artificial Muscles",

  • M. J. Lighthill, "Hydromechanics of aquatic animal propulsion," Annual Rev. Fluid Mech. 1(1), 413–446 (1969).

  • M. S. Triantafyllou, G. S. Triantafyllou, and D. K. P. Yue, "Hydrodynamics of fish like swimming," Annu. Rev. FluidMech. 32, 33–53 (2000).

  • M. Sfakiotakis, D.M. Lane, and J. B. C. Davies, "Review of fish swimming modes for aquatic locomotion," IEEE J. Ocean.Eng. 24(2), 237–252 (1999).

  • MacCurdy, R.; Katzschmann, R.; Kim, Y. & Rus, D. "Printable Hydraulics: A Method for Fabricating Robots by 3D Co-Printing Solids, and Liquids". 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2016

  • Matt Burgess, Aug 2017, "The Royal Navy has gazed into the future... and it looks pretty fishy",

  • Peter A. Kerrebrock, Jamie M. Anderson, Joel R. Parry, "Application requirements of artificial muscles for swimming robots", July 2001, Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering. DOI - 10.1117/12.432686

  • R. Bainbridge, "The speed of swimming of fish as related to size and to the frequency and amplitude of the tail beat," J.Exp. Biol. 35, 109–133 (1958).

  • R. E. Shadwick and G. V. Lauder, Fish Biomechanics (Academic, New York, 2006).

  • R.W. Blake, "The mechanics of labriform locomotion. I. Labriform locomotion in the angelfish (Pterphyllum eimekei): an analysis of the power stroke," J. Exp. Biol. 82, 255–271 (1979).

  • Realistic robot carp created: First robot fish with autonomous 3-D movement in Asia, June 26, 2013.

  • Robert K. Katzschmann, Joseph DelPreto, Robert MacCurdy and Daniela Rus, "Exploration of underwater life with an acoustically controlled soft robotic fish', Science Robotics 21 Mar 2018: Vol. 3, Issue 16, eaar3449; DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aar3449

  • Ruiz, L. A., Whittlesey, R. W. and Dabiri, J. O. 2011,"Vortex-enhanced propulsion". J. Fluid Mech.668, 5-32.

  • S Yasseri, "Subsea system readiness level assessment", Underwater Technology Vol 31 No 2, Spring 2013

  • Sir Robert Hill, September 2017, "Racing Human Powered Submarines", Ingenia Issue 72

  • Swarm of underwater robots mimics ocean life; Researchers collaborate on new technology study using 'robotic plankton', January 24, 2017,

  • T. Y. Wu, "Hydromechanics of swimming propulsion. Part 1. Swimming of a two-dimensional flexible plate at variable forward speeds in an inviscid fluid," J. Fluid Mech. 46(2), 337–355 (1971).

  • Technology Grows Exponentially -

  • Thomas D. Economon, Francisco Palacios, Sean R. Copeland, Trent W. Lukaczyk, and Juan J. Alonso. "SU2: An Open-Source Suite for Multiphysics Simulation and Design", AIAA Journal, Vol. 54, No.3(2016), pp. 828-846.

  • Tyler Van Buren and Alexander J Smits, "Bio-inspired underwater propulsors – Project Bio inspired propulsion". Jan 2018.

  • U. K. Muller, J. Smit, E. J. Stamhuis, and J. J. Videler, "How the body contributes to the wake in undulatory fish swimming flow fields of a swimming eel (Anguilla anguilla)," J. Exp. Biol. 204(16), 2751–2762 (2001).

  • Underwater robot swarms use collective cognition to perform tasks, May 28, 2015,


  • Y. Bazilevs, K. Takizawa, and T.E. Tezduyar, "Computational Fluid Structure Interaction: Methods and Application", Wiley, February 2013, ISBN 978- 0470978771

  • Yl Yound, MR Motley, R Barber, EL Chae, N Garg, "Adaptive Composite Marine Propulsors and Turbines: Progress and Challenges", Applied Mechanics Reviews · September 2016, DOI: 10.1115/1.4034659

Views 31
Downloads 43
Data volume 163.6 MB
Unique views 31
Unique downloads 39


Cite as