With the overall goal being a better understanding of the sensing environment from the local perspective of a situated agent, we studied uniform flows and Kármán vortex streets in a frame of reference relevant to a fish or swimming robot. We visualized each flow regime with digital particle image velocimetry and then took local measurements using a rigid body with laterally distributed parallel pressure sensor arrays. Time and frequency domain methods were used to characterize hydrodynamically relevant scenarios in steady and unsteady flows for control applications. Here we report that a distributed pressure sensing mechanism has the capability to discriminate Kármán vortex streets from uniform flows, and determine the orientation and position of the platform with respect to the incoming flow and the centre axis of the Kármán vortex street. It also enables the computation of hydrodynamic features which may be relevant for a robot while interacting with the flow, such as vortex shedding frequency, vortex travelling speed and downstream distance between vortices. A Kármán vortex street was distinguished in this study from uniform flows by analysing the magnitude of fluctuations present in the sensor measurements and the number of sensors detecting the same dominant frequency. In the Kármán vortex street the turbulence intensity was 30% higher than that in the uniform flow and the sensors collectively sensed the vortex shedding frequency as the dominant frequency. The position and orientation of the sensor platform were determined via a comparative analysis between laterally distributed sensor arrays; the vortex travelling speed was estimated via a cross-correlation analysis among the sensors.
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