This amphibious robot can fly like a bird and swim like a fish

One of the most striking aspects of the military’s much-analyzed UAP footage is some of the objects’ apparent ability to travel between air and water in the blink of an eye. Something capable of such a feat may certainly appear like some seriously extraterrestrial technology to the untrained eye, but a research team at the Chinese University of Hong Kong recently showed that, at least on a small scale, it’s not impossible to do.

As highlighted by New Scientist and soon-to-be detailed at the upcoming IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Ben Chen and their team’s small “Mirs-X” quadcopter prototype can hover about six minutes in the air, or dive as deep as three meters for a whopping 40 minutes. To accomplish the dual biome maneuvering, researchers equipped each of the drone’s four motors with a dual-speed gearbox. The motors and propellers are situated on rotating mounts capable of tilting and changing direction independent of one another, thus allowing for underwater propulsion.

[Related: Bat-like echolocation could help these robots find lost people.]

Precise propeller speed is also a vital factor for Mirs-X’s success. Given air is far less dense than water, the drone’s propellers must be able to spin incredibly fast to generate enough lift to rise and hover. Those same mechanisms can then slow down immensely once underwater to offer the appropriate thrust.

Although the Mirs-X prototype is pretty small—measuring just under 15 inches across and weighing barely 3.5 pounds—Chen’s team hopes to scale up the drone as large as 6 feet across in future experiments. They also hope to include additional abilities like grasping and carrying objects recovered underwater, although cautioned to New Scientist that further waterproofing could hamper its effectiveness.

If the hurdles could be cleared, however, such a drone could one day prove immensely useful for situations such as search and rescue operations requiring both aerial and submerged reconnaissance, or for inspecting engineering and industrial areas… perhaps a team-up with that new echolocation bot could prove interesting.