Garbage-collecting aqua drones and jellyfish filters for cleaner oceans
A Roomba-like ocean trash collector modelled on a whale shark and a microplastic filter made from jellyfish slime could prevent litter from entering our oceans and help tackle a growing problem that poses threats to wildlife, deters tourists and impacts on coastal economies.
The cost of sea litter in the EU has been estimated at up to €630 million per year. It is mostly composed of plastics, which take hundreds of years to break down in nature, and has the potential to affect human health through the food chain because plastic waste is eaten by the fish that we consume.
‘I’m an accidental environmentalist,’ said Richard Hardiman, who runs a project called WASTESHARK. He says that while walking at his local harbour one day he stopped to watch two men struggle to scoop litter out of the sea using a pool net. Their inefficiency bothered Hardiman, and he set about trying to solve the problem. It was only when he delved deeper into the issue that he realised how damaging marine litter, and plastic in particular, can be, he says.
‘I started exploring where this trash goes – ocean gyres (circular currents), junk gyres, and they’re just full of plastic. I’m very glad that we’re now doing something to lessen the effects,’ he said.
Hardiman developed an unmanned robot, an aqua drone that cruises around urban waters such as harbours, marinas and canals, eating up marine litter like a Roomba of the sea. The waste is collected in a basket which the WasteShark then brings back to shore to be emptied, sorted and recycled.
The design of the autonomous drone is modelled on a whale shark, the ocean’s largest known fish. These giant filter feeders swim around with their mouths open and lazily eat whatever crosses their path.
Read the full article by Horizon article