Transport by sea has been a favourite of smugglers for centuries -- it's hard to patrol an entire coastline, and it's easier to move a ton of stuff by sea than by land. In the future, though, getting your contraband through a port might be made exponentially more difficult by this tiny, ultrasound-packing submersible robot.
Designed by a MIT grad student and her professor, the robot, which is a little smaller than a football, uses ultrasound to inspect ships, looking for false hulls and prop shafts that smugglers often use to hide stuff from regular, human-powered inspections. The robot uses a unique pump-powered propulsion system that leaves no wake, so boats wouldn't have any idea that they're being inspected, either.
Best of all for port officials and their bean-counters, the robots are easy to make -- most of the structural components were 3D printed in a lab -- and Sampriti Bhattacharyya, the grad student responsible for the project, reckons they could be manufactured for around $US600 a pop. [MIT News]