If you ever think of something flying in a similar way as fish glides in the water, here it is. Made at Empa in collaboration with aeroix GmbH and the Technical University of Berlin, this is the world’s first EAP propelled airship. This fish shaped vehicle is lighter than air and is eight meter in length.
The airship has a lightly pressurized helium filled body, which is biologically inspired with Dielectric Elastomer (DE) actuators. DEs act as biological muscles and deforming the body and tail fin in a fish like manner.
The actuators on the ship work in an agonist-antagonist configuration. Also, the air ship’s fish like movement is supported by actuators on the either side – if one is activated the parallel one contracts.
EAPs are activated with frequency, activation voltage and a phase shift between the body and the tail fin movement and the flight is controlled with a joy stick which is connected to a ground-based portable computer.
The electric supply and the control system for the airship were developed at Empa and everything was optimized to keep the weight minimum. Also, the skeleton and other parts that include an ultra-light carbon-sandwich structure and a model-airship hull material were developed by the aeroix GmbH in Berlin.