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Design and Analysis of a Wire-Driven Robot Tadpole

[+] Author Affiliations
Zheng Li, Wenqi Gao, Ruxu Du

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Baofeng Liao

Chinese Academy of Science, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Paper No. IMECE2012-87462, pp. 297-303; 7 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 4: Dynamics, Control and Uncertainty, Parts A and B
  • Houston, Texas, USA, November 9–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4520-2
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


Besides fish there are a lot of animals can swim effectively in the water, such as tadpole. Different from fishes using multiple fins to swim, tadpole has only one tail. It is well known that most fish employ the caudal fin to generate thrust, and use the pectoral fin, pelvic fin, etc. to balance the body and control its moving direction. However, the tadpole fulfilled all these tasks by the tail only. Hence, it is interesting to build a robot tadpole and study its motion. In this paper, a robot tadpole is designed. It has a blunt head and a tail. The control system, power supply and actuator are inside the head. The tail is a novel wire driven flapping propeller. The tail has a serpentine backbone with 7 joints, which are controlled by just one actuator. A prototype is built. The overall length of the robot tadpole is 328cm. Experiment results show that the robot tadpole can swim freely in the water. Its speed is affected by the flapping amplitude and frequency. In the experiments, the tadpole’s speed can reach 0.413 body length per second (BL/s), which matches the prediction from the propulsion model.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Robots , Wire , Design



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