It is well-known how drone aircraft can patrol the sky — and how that might soon be increasing over U.S. soil — but surveillance in the sea seems to be more limited, or at least less talked about.

Virginia Tech College of Engineering researchers are changing that with their reveal of a 5-foot 7-inch robotic jellyfish that has spy capabilities.

Virginia Tech Engineers Create Cyro Robotic Jellyfish With Surveillance Capabilities

(Image: Vimeo screenshot)

Currently only a prototype, “Cyro” is powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery.

Virginia Tech Engineers Create Cyro Robotic Jellyfish With Surveillance Capabilities

Student researchers swim with “Cyro” during a test run. (Photo: Amanda Loman/Virginia Tech)

“Cyro showed its ability to swim autonomously while maintaining a similar physical appearance and kinematics as the natural species,” lead researcher Shashank Priya said in a statement. “This autonomous operation in shallow water conditions is already a big step towards demonstrating the use of these creatures.”

Watch this recently released video showing the robot in action:

Cyro, whose biological inspiration is Cyanea capillata, can collect, store, analyze and communicate sensory data all at the same time.

Virginia Tech Engineers Create Cyro Robotic Jellyfish With Surveillance Capabilities

Cyanea capillata “lion’s mane” jellyfish (Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr/Dan Hershman)

The $5 million research product, which also produced a smaller prototype prior to Cyro, was funded by the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research, which hopes to have a self-powering, autonomous machines in the sea, capable of surveillance and environment monitoring. It could also be used for studying aquatic life, mapping the ocean’s topography and measuring currents, the press release stated.

When compared to the smaller robotic jelly called RoboJelly, unveiled by the Virginia Tech engineers in 2012, they found the larger design of Cyro was actually more beneficial.

“A larger vehicle will allow for more payload, longer duration and longer range of operation,” Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering working under Priya, said in a statement. “Biological and engineering results show that larger vehicles have a lower cost of transport, which is a metric used to determine how much energy is spent for traveling.”

Cyro, whose name is a combination of “Cyanea” and “robot,” swims in a jellyfish-like motion by using mechanical arms that are controlled by motors to create “hydrodynamic movement.” The artificial “mesoglea,” the jellyfish-like body, on Cyro is made of silicone to mimic a jellyfish’s skin.

Virginia Tech Engineers Create Cyro Robotic Jellyfish With Surveillance Capabilities

(From left) Alex Villanueva, a doctoral student, Kenneth Marut and Tyler Michael, both masters students, helped create Cyro in the mechanical engineering program at Virginia Tech. (Photo: Amanda Loman/Virginia Tech)

Other universities partnering in the research included Providence College in Rhode Island, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Stanford University.

Related:

(H/T: Wired)