The researchers hope that their work could have applications in difficult search and rescue missions and biology research. The bots will need a few modifications before they can get to work in the open sea. For example, the LEDs would not stand out in well-lit water, so the bots would need a different cue, like a pattern on their sides, in order to find each other. Fish schools also don’t navigate by vision alone—they have a unique sensory organ called a lateral line that can detect small changes in water pressure and flow around them.
"Other researchers have reached out to me already to use my Bluebots as fish surrogates for biological studies on fish swimming and schooling," says Berlinger to the AFP. If they confirm that fish behave the same way as Bluebots, the bots could help scientists study collective intelligence.