With the WasteShark, RanMarine Technology from Richard Hardiman supplies a floating robot that tackles the plastic soup like a nautical Roomba.
What: Drone that removes plastic from the water
Who: Richard Hardiman (46)
Challenges: Plastic soup
Funding: 2.3 million euros (VCs and subsidy) Website : ranmarine.io
The idea came to him when Richard Hardiman saw a few people scooping plastic from a boat on a terrace in Cape Town. That had to be more efficient than with a scoop net, right?
At the time, the Briton Hardiman had already completed a career as a journalist and radio DJ and was studying business in South Africa. On a napkin he drew a robot that, just like Wall-E in the delightful animated film, collected plastic from the water.
Auquadrone with lidar
That was almost ten years ago. But the idea did not leave him. After his studies, Hardiman and a partner decided to create a startup around his WasteShark: RanMarine Technology. In a great place: Rotterdam, where more startups around the theme of sea and ports are being set up.
In recent years, the aquadrone has been developed into a smart and – thanks to lidar – self-propelled system. Like the familiar Roomba for the home, the electric sharks sail autonomously, soon from a docking station where they can recharge themselves and dump their dirt.
‘We have launched an emission-free electrical alternative that the government and water boards can use, instead of older technology that mainly runs on fossil fuels. We challenge water managers to do better with pollution,” says Hardiman.
Clean up and collect data
Where Boyan Slat looks for the open sea, where he wants to remove the gigantic floating clumps of plastic soup, Hardiman limits himself to inland waterways. In ports and canals, the autonomous surface vessels (ASV) also seek out the smallest corners to tackle dirt there.
But make no mistake: every day they consume up to 500 kilos of plastic or organic floating junk that does not end up in the ocean. Along the way, they also monitor water quality and temperature, collecting a wealth of data for their boss.
“ We chose to build drones with a very specific use case,” says Hardiman. ‘That sets us apart. We are also making it easy for our customers to use robots, enabling them to clean more, emit less carbon dioxide, and collect important water quality data at the same time.”
Innovation Award at CES
The WasteSharks are now several dozen and sail their rounds all over the world: from Denmark to Singapore and from England (Canary Wharf) to the port of Houston. Disney, among others, uses the aquadrone in their American resorts.
They can also suck up more than just plastic. They are now also removing blue-green algae from the water in Helsinki, stuff that is suitable for processing in cosmetics and animal feed. Hardiman won an innovation award with it at the CES tech fair .
There are plenty of plans to scale up. In North America, Hardiman wants to open branches, and he is also looking at new products. The WasteShark should have a big brother, the MegaShark, with a capacity of 100 kilos per day, and a version that specializes in oil spills, the OilShark. RanMarine is looking for new funding for this. A stock exchange listing in the US could provide for this in the future.