Principal Investigator: Cecilia Laschi
Project Manager: Cecilia Laschi
Project Lifetime: Sep 2012 to Dec 2015
Funding Institution: Fondazione Livorno, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna

The Project PoseiDRONE aims at providing a disruptive perspective into underwater operations by introducing an entirely new concept of underwater robot. This robot will be applicable in marine operations such as those entailed with coastal and offshore engineering, petroleum and drilling technology as well as underwater archaeology and environmental protection. The project is focussed on developing an innovative soft robot capable of swimming, crawling over irregular and uneven substrates and perform complex manipulation tasks in cramped environments. The capability to perform multi-gait locomotion in the aquatic environment and manipulation along with an overall highly compliant structure will provide this robot with unprecedented assets. These will make the PoseiDRONE suitable for dealing with tasks for which common Remotely Operated Vehicles are unfit in terms of functionality, flexibility, safety and cost. A brochure of the project can be downloaded at this link.

PoseiDRONE is a spin out of the OCOTPUS-IP and the CFD-OctoProp projects, which provide the technological background for the development of a self-contained robotic platform with a straight forward application in the scenario of marine operations. The project is currently supported by the Fondazione Livorno and the  RobotSoft Class Action. PoseiDRONE is the first underwater robot made for as much as 90% of soft materials. The robot is composed of three units: a crawler, a swimmer and several manipulators. These units are merged into a single, continuous body of elastomeric material. By exploiting these three constitutive units, the robot benefits of a multi-gait locomotion strategy which enables it to either travel waterborne via jet propulsion or crawl on various substrates via a multi-legged push-pull pattern.  The set of skills of which the PoseiDRONE benefits could, for the first time, provide the robot with a simple and alternative strategy to deal with the highly complicated scenarios which ROVs are faced with.

Why is PoseiDRONE different from other underwater robots?

At present there exist a number of tasks in marine operation for which relying on robots, such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), constitutes the only option. Standard working procedures for these kind of vehicles envisage the robots to work at a safe distance from the sea bottom or the submerged structure upon which operation is being carried out in order to avoid the risk of damage.  

On the other hand, a soft bodied robot such as the PoseiDRONE can exploit its compliance and unlikely risk of damage to operate while in contact with the artefact. In the scenario of offshore intervention, where highly perturbed conditions are standard, this approach could represent a winning strategy for a great variety of tasks. The soft nature of PoseiDRONE especially lends itself to a specific range of applications. Operation and maintenance tasks of marine renewable energy plants (i.e. tidal turbines, wave-energy converters, floating and fixed offshore wind turbines), for instance, represent especially forbidding scenarios where strong ocean currents and high wave energy often coincide with periods of infrastructure maintenance. The difficulty of performing systematic monitoring of these structures is a significant technological bottleneck in producing energy from renewable solutions, which may otherwise be a competitive strategy in terms of cost of production per unit of energy delivered in the grid.  In addition, the global oil and gas industry has been progressively looking to expand exploration and production activities into challenging environments such as the deeper reservoirs. 

These environments are not only prohibitive to deal with from a logistic point of view, but they also constitute a surprisingly dynamic realm inhabited by biologically diverse and fragile ecosystems. Due of their remote nature, prognosis and health-monitoring systems on offshore and submerged structures of this kind will become much more necessary. Necessary data includes water depth, currents, seabed migration and wave action, as well as a number of other factors which include marine growth, salinity, icing, and the geotechnical characteristics of the sea bed. Therefore the energy and seabed mining sectors as a whole are required to acquire baseline and on-going environmental surveys throughout the life history of operations from exploration to decommissioning. However traditional robotic systems are often faced with problems which current technological solution have not tackled yet. In this respect soft robotics can indeed overturn the current approach in marine operations. The high degree of compliance and low risk of damage from impact offers the chance to deal with maintenance or construction tasks by adhering to a structure, rather than working detached from it, thus relieving the control from the need to manage the contact, the grip-loss problem as well as the risk of unexpected collisions. 

At what stage of development is PoseiDRONE?

The first prototype of the PoseiDRONE entails a simplified version of the final robot aimed at testing the basic functionality of the platform by integrating, for the first time, the three different components in a unified soft bodied robot. This first robotic platform comprises of a jet propelling unit and a four-leg crawler. Only one of the four arms of the crawler is endowed with manipulation capability. The robot is composed for 76.4% of its volume of soft elastomeric rubber, the actuation of the crawling unit relies on Solarbotics GM12a DC Motors while the swimmer is actuated by 441435 Maxon DC Motor. The whole robot weights 0.755Kg, each silicone arm is 0.245m long, the swimmer is 0.2m long from the rearmost to the foremost end, the whole robot, with the arms extended on a plane is 0.78m long from the tip of the rearmost arm to the tip of the foremost one. 

The robot has been tested in water both in controlled environment and in open sea. Reports on this first set of experiments is provided in details in the publications reported below. The tests demonstrated the fitness of the robot at performing crawling locomotion over uneven and irregular substrates such as those encountered on the sea bottom. The robot was also put to test in an object-retrieve scenario in which a screw-driver was grasped by one of the arm of the robot and subsequently the robot was made to swim and crawl while holding the screw-driver. 

The PoseiDRONE is currently undergoing further testing and a revised prototype is under development.




  1.  Arienti A., Calisti M., Giorgio Serchi F. and Laschi C. (2103), "PoseiDRONE: design of a soft-bodied ROV with crawling, swimming and manipulation ability" Proceedings of the MTS/IEEE OCEANS conference, San Diego, CA, USA, September, 21-27, 2103. 
  2. Giorelli M., Giorgio Serchi F. and Laschi C. (2013), "Forward speed control of a pulsed-jet soft-bodied underwater vehicle", Proceedings of the MTS/IEEE OCEANS conference, San Diego, CA, USA, September, 21-27, 2103.
  3. Calisti M., Arienti A., Giorgio Serchi F. and Laschi C., (2013), "Underwater soft robots: a disruptive perspective on underwater robotics?", 1st International Workshop on Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation, Monte Verità, Switezerland, July, 14-19, 2013.


In the Media:

  1.  "La pieuvre manoeuvre tout en souplesse", L'Usine Nouvelle, 13/03/2014.
  2. "Comme un robot dans l'eau", L'Usine Nouvelle, 13/03/2014.
  3. "How to build a robot Octopus", Scientific American, 7/10/2013.
  4. PoseiDRONE. Ecco PoseiDRONE: il nuovo polpo-robot del Sant'Anna, Made with style, 20/09/2013.
  5. "In fondo al mare con PoseiDRONE, il robot acquatico della Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna", Dire, 20/09/2013.
  6. "PoseiDRONE, dal Sant'Anna il robot rivoluzionario", Il Tirreno Pisa, 21/09/2013.
  7. "Arriva PoseiDRONE, il robot subacqueo", Corriere Toscana, 21/09/2013.
  8. PodeiDRONE, la seppia-robot rivoluzione l'esplorazione marina, La Nazione Pisa, 21/09/2013.
  9. "Ecco il robot marino rivoluzionario PoseiDRONE a prova di urto", La Nazione Livorno, 22/09/2013.
  10. L'automa, un PoseiDRONE "Destinazione mare", Repubblica Affari Finanza, 30/09/2013.
  11. PoseiDRONE il robot marino. Rtv38 - Tg38.
  12. "Il Sant'Anna svela PoseiDRONE", Italia7 - TGT.
  13. PoseiDRONE Rai Due - TG2.
  14. Oro Verde intervista Andrea Arienti sul robot PoseiDRONE - TGCOM24.
  15. Moebius PoseiDRONE - Radio24.
  16. "Il polpo alla livornese che lavora sui fondali con tentacoli da robot", Il Tirreno, 18/06/2013.
  17. "Biorobotica per il Mare", La Nazione, 16/06/2013.
  18. "Decolla la sfida del polpo octopus", La Nazione, 08/10/2012.
  19. "Nell'allegra fattoria dei robot", Wired.it, 05/10/2012.
  20. "Ecco il polpo robot che studia il mare", Il Tirreno, 03/10/2012.
  21. "Soldi per il polpo del Sant'Anna", Il Tirreno, 15/05/2012.