We present experimental force and power measurements demonstrating that the power required to propel an actively swimming, streamlined, fish-like body is significantly smaller than the power needed to tow the body straight and rigid at the same speed U. The data have been obtained through accurate force and motion measurements on a laboratory fish-like robotic mechanism, 1.2 m long, covered with a flexible skin and equipped with a tail fin, at Reynolds numbers up to 106, with turbulence stimulation. The lateral motion of the body is in the form of a travelling wave with wavelength λ and varying amplitude along the length, smoothly increasing from the front to the tail end. A parametric investigation shows sensitivity of drag reduction to the non-dimensional frequency (Strouhal number), amplitude of body oscillation and wavelength λ, and angle of attack and phase angle of the tail fin. A necessary condition for drag reduction is that the phase speed of the body wave be greater than the forward speed U. Power estimates using an inviscid numerical scheme compare favourably with the experimental data. The method employs a boundary-integral method for arbitrary flexible body geometry and motions, while the wake shed from the fish-like form is modelled by an evolving desingularized dipole sheet.
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