An ABI seminar by Associate Professor Iain Anderson, Biomimetics Lab, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland.
In July of this year our submariners from Team Taniwha took the European International Submarine Racing trophy. This is inscribed with a drawing depicting Alexander the Great in an ancient diving bell, surrounded by a whale and fish that has been lowered by rope into the Mediterranean. Our human propelled submarine is very unlike Alexander's diving bell. The fin driven Taniwha is fast and its fish-like bending body renders it maneuverable. Racing took place against 10 other teams in the QinetiQ Ocean Basin, Gosport UK; a giant pool (120m long by 60 m wide by 5 m deep) the size of a football field underwater, that is used for testing submersibles and ship models. The course consisted of a 100 m long outward run through a timing gate, a left hand turn of about 40 m with a final left hand turn into a 100 m slalom. Taniwha was reliable, completing every one of our racing runs and was faster than all but one of the primarily propeller driven submarines. Our top speed was 4.7 knots (we almost beat the World record for single-person/non-propeller human submarine) and our sub traveled about 5.5 km underwater during the racing week. This is a very different result to our first go at the same course in 2014 when we had great difficulty in steering and reliability and could not complete the course.
We have demonstrated that finned propulsion is fast and that a flexible body can be highly maneuverable. In this talk I will describe what we did to turn Taniwha into a fast and reliable machine and the trials, tribulations and excitement of racing.