The seal whiskerers: Navy looks to sea life for new ships

(Photo: Mystic Aquarium)

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — The U.S. Navy is enlisting the help of seals — but not the kind of highly trained special operatives it usually associates with.

Scientists think real seals, specifically their whiskers, may be the key to a new way for ships and underwater vehicles to sense their environment.

When a fish swims by, a hungry seal senses the wake with its whiskers. It can tell characteristics of the fish and track the location.

Despite the adorable possibilities, scientists aren’t looking to outfit ships and vehicles with whiskers.

They’re studying how the whiskers function to learn how to reverse engineer the system.

The science could be applied to the development of a future sensor.

The research is taking place at the Newport division of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.