A team of researchers at Utah State University’s Splash Lab is laying the groundwork for future water-walking drones. With high-speed cameras pointed at a tank of water used for the experiment, the researchers recorded elastic spheres skipping across the water. The resulting research unveiled the underlying physics and has led to the discovery of a new mode of water surface skipping named “water walking.”
According to Utah State University, “Water walking occurs when elastic spheres gain significant speed over the first several impacts, causing the sphere to maintain a deformed, oblong shape—like a stone one might find near the shore.”
As the sphere moves almost parallel to the water’s surface, the tip of the oblong region dips into the water as the sphere rotates. The shorter side, on the other hand, passes above the water’s surface. Thus, the illusion that the sphere is walking on water is achieved.
The team uncovered two types of water walking. “The first type skips once every full rotation and the other skips twice every full rotation. This distinction can be controlled with an equation that can predict the number of skips that will occur,” according to Utah State University.
“Although this has been a long study, the new modes we discovered make it easier for us to envision using the technology for practical uses like water-walking drones,” Utah State University Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tadd Truscott says.
Naval Undersea Warfare Center scientists and Brown University researchers also contributed to the research effort.
You can watch the walk-walking tests in the video below.