WasteShark is an aquadrone designed by Dutch environmental tech firm RanMarine. It has been compared to the eponymous protagonist of the movie Wall-E, the rusty sentient robot that compacted trash in a desolate world overrun by garbage.
However, in terms of capability, the swimming drone has more in common with the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. Its gaping maw serves as a scoop that gathers up floating garbage in its path.
It can fit a little over than half a ton of plastic in its gullet before it will need to return to the dock to unload its cargo. WasteShark has 16 hours worth of battery charge, giving it more than enough operational time to fill itself to the brim.
WasteShark recently completed a year of testing with Ecocoast, Ranmarine’s Dubai-based partner. It is now operating in the artificial canal city of Dubai Marina.
Before its current deployment, four drones were tested in the waters of the Port of Rotterdam. At least one drone was also sent to Baltimore, where it worked alongside the local trash interceptor ship Mr. Trash Wheel.
An aquatic drone is hard at work cleaning the waters in Dubai
RanMarine developed WasteShark to collect plastic waste in shallow waters before the garbage got carried out to the open ocean. The company believed a fleet of such drones could help reduce the plastic pollution that is filling the seas.
The drone drew inspiration from the whale shark in both design and name. Its white body is quite broad and its open mouth is almost as wide as its hull.
In addition to plastic garbage, it will also target pretty much anything that floats, such as debris and invasive aquatic plants. It can fit almost anything inside its mouth, which is also deep enough to scoop up partially afloat trash up to one foot below the surface of the water.
A GPS locator broadcasts the location and presence of the WasteShark. In addition, a collision-avoidance system aboard the drone can detect nearby objects. If it senses that it’s on a collision course, it will adjust its position and avoid the obstacle.
Other sensors can determine the chemical composition, depth, pH, temperature, and salinity of the water. The data on water quality can guide the WasteShark to areas that have plenty of waste contaminating the water.
It’s not safe (for plastic and garbage) to go into the water anymore
“‘Inspired by nature and blending technology, form and function, the WasteShark is designed to swim through water and eat its prey with minimum effort and maximum efficiency,” explained RanMarine representatives.
The unit deployed to Dubai Marina is an earlier version that does not have autonomous capability. It is controlled by a human user, who either has a remote control system or an iPad.
A newer model does feature Level 1 autonomy. That WasteShark can perform a few tasks without human guidance, but it is still reliant on a human operator.
Both models are capable of traversing natural rivers and artificial canals, marinas, and ports. WasteShark is reported to be safe to operate around birds and fish.
Other drones are being developed to operate further out in the sea. American researchers created a prototype autonomous aquadrone for hunting lionfish, an invasive species that is threatening the local fish in coral reefs.
Robotics.news has more stories about drones like WasteShark that are being used to perform all kinds of mundane jobs.