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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur on Thursday unveiled a 3D-printed prototype for a hybrid unmanned aerial-underwater vehicle (UAV) that can operate on land, air and in water.

The 3D-printed prototype, which was built inspired by a species of bird Anhingas that are both capable of moving on land and underwater, may be useful in rescue efforts as well as in tasks like mapping oil spills on beaches, rivers, or underwater erosion and pollution dispersion.

“This prototype can sail like a ship on the surface, fly in the air and also navigate when it is submerged in the water. It has a flying time of 15 minutes and can stay underwater for 8 hours. Interest in this topic has been growing over the years but this technology at present is with very few countries like the US and China. We wanted to develop our indigenous product,” said Prof. Jayant Kumar Mohanta, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT, Jodhpur, in a statement.

The prototype is built with a quadrotor configuration — a type of helicopter with four rotors. While the top layer will move in the air, the bottom layer equipped with aqua propellers, will aid in underwater movement.

It is capable of performing six manoeuvres: dive from air to underwater; take off from underwater to air; land from air to water surface; dive from the water surface to underwater; surface from underwater; and take off from water surface, the researchers said.

The prototype was presented at AIR ’23: Proceedings of the 2023 6th International Conference on Advances in Robotics.