A Swiss team has built a robotic turtle which it says could revolutionise how the oceans are studied.

The beautiful robot is named Naro-Tartaruga, and swims with the same hypnotic motion of large fins as real turtles do.

The team at ETH Zurich say turtles are easier to build than many of the animal-aping robots currently in use in the ocean, and can also carry payloads more effectively.

They hope to be able to use the turtle's 'shell' to carry electronics and large batteries, and avoid the need for complicated articulated propulsion systems. It will be tasked with developing new autonomous navigation systems, and a variety of environmental studies.

The turtle has a top speed of about 7 kilometres-per-hour, and is set to make its first full test soon. In the meantime check out the footage of a prototype swimming in a pool - it's quite serene, until you imagine all the deadly things it could do if it ever became sentient and gained access to a harpoon.

"The second robot of the naro project continues the concept of fin propulsion. The natural counterpart of this robot is the sea-turtle. Also a highly endangered animal! But the reasons to choose the turtle as model lie in the rigid body which is technically much simpler to realize than a agile body of a fish. The big torso also provides enough space for sensors and batteries which are essential for autonomy."

You can follow the project more closely on ETH Zurich's Facebook page.