Meet the world’s first bionic fish

Most drones are taking to the skies, but the RoboSea BIKI is one of the first underwater remote control cameras we’ve seen. Join us as we talk to RoboSea to find out more.

It’s easy for drone makers to stick to tried and tested formulas, typically powering airborne drones with propellers, but BIKI offers something completely different, turning to nature for inspiration and providing a mechanical package that looks and moves suspiciously like a fish.

RoboSea explain that BIKI is the “world’s first bionic underwater drone”, and like plenty of its airborne counterparts it also packs in tech you may not expect to find in an underwater robot, including automated balance, obstacle avoidance and return-to-base features. Add a 4K camera and BIKI makes it possible to explore and film a whole new underwater world.
Pointing out why BIKI could be one of the most useful drones yet, Amy Zhang, overseas marketing specialist at RoboSea, explains that it’s particularly important that we’re able to explore underwater:

“Sea areas account for three quarters of the earth’s surface. However, human’s insight on the ocean is not as profound as our understanding towards the land development. The sea areas that are perfect for diving are yet to be further explored. More mysterious underwater areas are going to be unveiled in the future, which means more underwater robots need to be developed for the use of ocean protection and exploration.”

That’s where BIKI comes in, and you don’t need to look much further than the design cues – such as the tail fin, or the mechanical movement that propels the robot – to see where the team got their inspiration.

“It’s bionic inspired and built on the basis of bionics and hydrodynamics theory,” says Zhang. It may sound complicated, but in short it means that BIKI looks and moves like a fish. “The camera can be visualised as its eyes, while the infrared sensor area can be envisioned as its lips. These two parts combined to display its facial expression, which is cute with a touch of fearlessness.”

Zhang explains that while there are plenty of aerial and land-based drones being used by the public, education and other industries, there’s currently a big shortage when it comes to underwater robots for consumer use.

BIKI is designed to make underwater exploration more affordable, while integrating high-tech features – like the ability to return to base and avoid unseen objects – to make it as easy as possible for people to use, “offering a brand new underwater experience”.

The bionic-inspired design doesn’t just look the part, either, and Zhang points out that it also helps when it comes to efficiency.

“Most other underwater robots use propellers, which can be inefficient when it comes to energy consumption. This can lead to either a short battery life or the need for a cable to link the battery and remote control, with devices often proving bulky to carry round in comparison to BIKI.”

At just 1200g, BIKI is small, light and portable, with motion being generated by the tail at the back. Using this design, says Zhang, “the efficiency of power conversion is way above that of propeller-based rivals, with a 2,600mAh battery capable of lasting for up to 1.5 hours”.

Starting off as Kickstarter project, and having already smashed its goal, you can now make a pledge of $599 (€504) to get your hands on your own BIKI on Indiegogo. Early orders are expected to land in September.