Behold Dr. Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia's Mantabot, a silicone-winged machine based on the the cow-nosed ray, an eagle ray found off of North America's Atlantic coast. It may lack the grace of the extraterrestrials from The Abyss, but it's a robotic manta ray — hard to be churlish in that department. Explains UVA of its biomechanical applications:
Bart-Smith's ultimate goal is to engineer a vehicle that would operate autonomously, and could be deployed for long periods of time to collect undersea data for scientists, or as a surveillance tool for the military. It also could be scaled up, or down, to serve as a platform carrying various payloads, such as environmental monitoring instruments. For example, it possibly could be used for pollution monitoring, such as tracking the locations of underwater oil spills.