How nature is inspiring the latest underwater technology collaborations

31st January 2023
Harry Fowle

NavyX and Dstl are working together to fund research towards new methods of underwater propulsion and design, with heavy inspiration from what is currently living in the depths.

The Royal Navy’s autonomy and lethality accelerator, NavyX, is working in a collaborative effort with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to advance bio-inspired underwater technology via academic institutions up and down the country. Through a funding scheme that offers researchers in the field generous PhD packages, the collaboration hopes to unlock to next big thing in underwater technology.

Taking inspiration from the natural world, which has hand-crafted advantageous designs and characteristics over thousands of years of evolution, is the name of the game when it comes to this new project. By using the latest in robotics, researchers hope to mimic the features found in marine life that enable such high levels of agility, speed, stealth, and endurance to enhance the range and lethal capabilities of current underwater military and commercial technologies.

The key focus of the programme is to develop a greater understanding of modes of underwater propulsion and platform design that can then be applied to uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs). By focusing study on more novel methods of underwater propulsion, it is hoped that the programme will unlock previously unrealised potentials that will give a competitive advantage over the competition. After all, it is only once we fully understand the creatures which have dominated the depths over millennia that we can hope to ourselves.

This field of study is crucial for the Navy to remain on a plane of equity with its allies whilst also being ahead of the game with its adversaries. Whilst the focus is on defence and military tech, it is strongly anticipated that any advancements and discoveries made will also have benefits that reach far beyond these fields. It is also a great opportunity for technology to emerge from the study that can unlock better methods of traversal for even the most challenging of environments.

By utilising the extensive wealth of academic capabilities here in the UK, NavyX and Dstl hope to ignite and pioneer a totally new sovereign market.

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