Technology: Belle, a fish like no other

Belle is a new model of silent, autonomous robotic fish, created by students. These two features make this prototype a precious ally for biologists seeking to observe marine ecosystems without disturbing them.

Belle robotic fish ©Euronews

Swiss students from ETH Zurich have developed an autonomous bot-fish, capable of filming in high definition and collecting environmental DNA samples. Belle, as the students have dubbed it, can also create its own itineraries as it explores the reefs. However, unlike other underwater devices, Belle is not powered by propellers, but rather by a silicone tail that mimics the caudal movements of fish. As a result, it makes no noise.  

Just under a metre long and weighing ten kilos, the robot currently has an operating autonomy of two hours. A soundproof pump is used to pump water into and out of two cavities in its tail, allowing it to propel itself. 

"We want to capture the way ecosystems really behave," explains Léon Guggenheim, a mechanical engineering student at ETH Zurich. Belle's ability to blend in with other fish makes it ideal for researchers, particularly when it comes to intra- and inter-specific behavior.  

The team of Zurich students hopes that Belle can help scientists study the health and biodiversity of various marine ecosystems, impacted by overfishing, pollution and climate change.

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