Unique seal swimming patterns could inspire new underwater drones

Researchers have discovered how seals and sea lions evolved to swim, findings which could have potential implications for improving the design of machines such as underwater drones and submersibles. Lead author Dr David Hocking, of Monash University, teamed up with engineer Dr Shibo Wang, from the university’s department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to use simulations to show how water flows around seal flippers of different shapes. “Our analysis showed that some Antarctic seals, like leopard seals, actually have very streamlined, wing-like forelimbs, despite being from the ‘foot-propelled’ seal family,” said Hocking. “Seals have had millions of years to perfect their swimming, and they can teach us a thing or two about underwater grace and elegance,” said Hocking. “Learning from them may help us to improve the design of human-built machines like underwater drones and submersibles, increasing their speed, manoeuvrability or energy efficiency