UNO Selected To Receive Grant From Department of Defense To Support Robotic ‘Eel’ Project


The University of New Orleans has been selected to receive a grant worth approximately $280,000 from the Department of Defense to buy state-of-the-art defense research equipment. The grant will be used to support an Office of Naval Research project in which UNO researchers are designing and building a new type of robotic “eel” that is capable of operating in shallow water environments where Navy personnel could be at risk.

 UNO is the only university in Louisiana to receive a portion of the $54.7 million in grants given to 100 universities through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program.

 The grant will be used to purchase stereoscopic particle image velocimetry equipment, which uses a series of lasers and cameras to measure and visualize fluid flow, according to Brandon Taravella, UNO assistant professor of naval architecture and marine engineering and the principal investigator on the project.

 By building and testing a robotic “eel,” UNO researchers will attempt to confirm an aquatic swimming motion theory originally completed by William Vorus, professor emeritus of naval architecture and marine engineering. Vorus’ theory involves a swimming motion that has very low drag and high efficiency.

 Recent changes in naval warfare have produced increased emphasis on operations in shallow water areas such as rivers and coastline. One important mission is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which sometimes involves monitoring and data collection in harsh or dangerous conditions. The Navy has a strong interest in developing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that can carry sensors into perilous environments without being detected. This proposal will investigate the science and engineering aspects of a new type of AUV that will be able to travel long distances on low power.

 UNO researchers have completed the prototype of the “eel,” and will begin testing it in UNO’s 125-foot-long towing tank sometime next month, according to Taravella.