Robot Dolphin Tail

Dolphins are some of the fastest animals in the sea.
They have amazing power and speed thanks to a unique propulsion system.

The tail is criss-crossed with elastic cartilaginous tissue, essentially spring-loading it. They are able to create a resonant system with the water, like an aquatic version of a pogo-stick.

While working with the Marine Mammal Group at UCSC, I became fascinated with this idea. I set out to create a model that would demonstrate not just the shape of the tail moving through the water, but also this pogo-stick effect.

I have recently revived this idea and have been working on a new version of the spine mechanism. Here are some pics of the original polyurethane casting from a mold I made of a Northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis)

Spine Prototype

Scale model tail (in mold) and a wax casting.