The Asian arowana is the world’s costliest aquarium fish, rumored to sell for as much as $300,000. But a cheaper alternative is now available – and it comes in the form of an underwater drone!
Before we dig into the tech, it’s worth taking a moment to understand why a drone manufacturer would be interested in creating a clone for this fish.
Arowana: a status symbol worth killing for
For the crazy rich Asians, the arowana aka “dragon fish” is a status symbol like no other. It is prized by Yakuza gang members in Japan. Chinese business tycoons are obsessed with it because they associate the fish’s red color and coin-like glimmering scales with good luck and prosperity. But that might be questionable because, in Malaysia, an aquarium shop owner was unlucky enough to have his neck slit so deeply he was nearly decapitated – just for this fish.
Even Singapore, which boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world, once witnessed four arowana heists in a single week. And did we mention that the country has dedicated “fish surgeons” to give the mighty arowana eye lifts ($90), chin jobs ($60), and tail alterations ($60)?
That this fish is an endangered species in the wild has made it an even hotter commodity – not just in Asia but also in North America and Europe.
In the United States, it is illegal to import, sell, and, in most cases, own the arowana. But a thriving black market exists to cater to those who covet this “limited edition luxury good.” Just last week, a Pittsburgh fish store owner pleaded guilty to trafficking the Asian arowana.
So, you can see why the arowana may show up on a bionic dronemaker’s radar…
Back to the drone tech…
The eerily real-looking arowana underwater drone has been manufactured by a Chinese company called RoboSea. They are the same folks who developed the shark drone we reported about earlier this month.
But while their Robo-Shark is built for intelligence gathering and anti-submarine warfare activity, RoboSea has much nobler intentions for the arowana submersible drone, which is dubbed RoboLab-GL.
Yuhan Fu, CEO, RoboSea, tells:
There are many well-known aquariums in China and abroad that are hoping to reduce the investment on marine life as much as possible, chiefly because many fish have become endangered. So, with alternatives like RoboLab-GL available, we are hoping the purchase of endangered marine creatures will drop.
In addition to the bionic appearance of the drone, its greatest feat lies in the way it moves. The drone makers studied the natural movements of the arowana to get RoboLab-GL to resemble the real thing as closely as possible.
And while that may not be reason enough for someone with bucket loads of cash to make the switch, Fu hopes that this uncanny resemblance would help to encourage zoos and aquariums to take the plunge:
If a robot fish can provide the same fun experience to visitors as a real fish, why wouldn’t aquariums want to use it instead? After all, they can get the robot to interact with the tourists as well. At the same time, it will add an element of science and technology to the aquarium.
That said, we would be remiss to completely write off this drone’s potential in espionage and surveillance. While the current version does not feature a camera, it is still laden with a variety of sensors and comes with a battery life of 6-8 hours.
Why not take a look at the impressive drone’s movements in the water and let us know the most likely uses for the fish clone in the comments below?
Watch the arowana underwater drone in action
The video says the drone is called “Robo-Fish,” but that is actually a whole other product by RoboSea. The name of this drone is RoboLab-GL.
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