Controlling a lamprey-based robot with an electronic nervous system

Journal Article

We are developing a biomimetic robot based on the Sea Lamprey. The robot consists of a cylindrical electronics bay propelled by an undulatory body axis. Shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators generate propagating flexion waves in five undulatory segments of a polyurethane strip. The behavior of the robot is controlled by an electronic nervous system (ENS) composed of networks of discrete-time map-based neurons and synapses that execute on a digital signal processing chip. Motor neuron action potentials gate power transistors that apply current to the SMA actuators. The ENS consists of a set of segmental central pattern generators (CPGs), modulated by layered command and coordinating neuron networks, that integrate input from exteroceptive sensors including a compass, accelerometers, inclinometers and a short baseline sonar array (SBA). The CPGs instantiate the 3-element hemi-segmental network model established from physiological studies. Anterior and posterior propagating pathways between CPGs mediate intersegmental coordination to generate flexion waves for forward and backward swimming. The command network mediates layered exteroceptive reflexes for homing, primary orientation, and impediment compensation. The SBA allows homing on a sonar beacon by indicating deviations in azimuth and inclination. Inclinometers actuate a bending segment between the hull and undulator to allow climb and dive. Accelerometers can distinguish collisions from impediment to allow compensatory reflexes. Modulatory commands mediate speed control and turning. A SBA communications interface is being developed to allow supervised reactive autonomy.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Westphal, A; Rulkov, NF; Ayers, J; Brady, D; Hunt, M

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 7 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 471 - 484

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1738-1584