Robot shark

‘Robot shark’ from startup RanMarine collects waste from the canals of Zaandam: Rotterdam company is aiming for ’round of millions’ to conquer the US

Frequent visitors to the Zaandam city center will have already seen him: the so-called ‘Veulvreter’. Here, in the Gedempte Gracht, a small white boat sails once a week with an insatiable hunger for waste. Floating cans, chip trays, PET bottles: this mini-catamaran eats everything that we humans would rather lose than be rich.

The ‘Veulvreter’, as it is called in Zaandam, is actually called WasteShark. It is a creation of the Rotterdam company RanMarine (in full: RanMarine Technology). After a charge, the electrically powered boat can search the water for six hours for waste, according to a pre-programmed zigzagging pattern. As a result, the ‘robot shark’ can remove up to 500 kilograms of waste from the water per day, according to the startup.

Zaanstad was the second Dutch municipality to launch the WasteShark in December, after Dordrecht had previously conducted a successful trial with the device. It saves time for employees of the municipal waste service in Zaandam, as they no longer have to fiddle with fishing nets to retrieve discarded cans from the canal.

Esther Lokhorst stands bent over one of her robot sharks in an old industrial building on a business park in the Rotterdam industrial area Nieuw Methesse. The interior can be described as a potpourri of wires and chips. A team of four young men works on the hardware and Lokhorst, as operational director, keeps an eye on things.

A little further in the open air we find a small water bath, which was installed here by RanMarine. Even though the sun is shining seductively this Wednesday afternoon, people are not supposed to take a dip in it. The only bather allowed is the WasteShark, which Lokhorst and her team test here after every refinement of the technique.

RanMarine’s WasteShark makes a tour of the test pool in Rotterdam. In the background operational director Esther Lokhorst (left) and founder Richard Hardiman.Photo: Business Insider Netherlands/Jelmer Luimstra

Sensor-equipped drones

The boats are in fact drones equipped with GPS and two sensors. The sensors measure the water quality and depth and forward this information to an online portal of RanMarine. “If, for example, dredging is required, customers immediately gain insight into how deep the soil is,” says Lokhorst.

Her company supplies floating drones that work completely autonomously, but also robot boats that you can control remotely. The robot boat can not only grab plastic waste from the water, but also duckweed. The company is currently investigating in Helsinki whether it is also possible to rid the water of blue-green algae.

No, the robot sharks are not a danger to passing birds, Lokhorst says when asked when we take a seat in a deserted, industrial-looking company canteen. “The boats only sail three kilometers per hour,” says the director. “In our five years of existence, we have never caught a bird or even a fish.”

RanMarine has so far sold more than fifty of these types of boats to 25 customers, says Lokhorst. Many of those customers come from abroad. For example, robot boats from the startup are sailing in the port of Houston, in Dallas and in Plymouth in the UK. The company has customers worldwide: from South Africa to South Korea and from Nigeria to Ireland.

Typical customers are government institutions and water boards, but theme parks are also part of the regular customer base. For example, RanMarine supplies its robot boats to Disney and Universal parks in Florida, among others. “America is a very important market for us,” says Lokhorst. “We are therefore now setting up an American division. We already have employees in the US and want to expand considerably.”

In time, this should result in an American office, says Lokhorst when asked. When, she can’t say yet. “For the time being, we will keep production and development here in Rotterdam. If we scale up considerably in the US, we will also start an assembly department there.”

In the Netherlands, Zaandam and Dordrecht are currently the only municipalities to which RanMarine supplies its aquadrones. It sometimes turns out to be quite complicated to hook up with municipalities. “The municipality is not always responsible for cleaning up waste. Some municipalities outsource this to cleaning companies.”

Lokhorst does state that its sales team is busy hooking up more Dutch municipalities. RanMarine even expects to start a project in the Wadden Sea soon.

Operations director Esther Lokhorst (left) of RanMarine joined the company in 2017. To the right of its founder Richard Hardiman. Business Insider Netherlands/ Jelmer Luimstra

Film WALL-E provided inspiration

Lokhorst is not the founder of RanMarine. The company was founded in 2016 by South African Richard Hardiman, who worked as a radio DJ and journalist in a previous life.

Hardiman came up with the idea of ​​the garbage-eating robot shark when he was sitting on a terrace in Cape Town and saw people using a net to remove dirt from the water. There had to be an easier way, Hardiman thought. His mind wandered off to the film WALL-E, in which the leading role is played by a futuristic robot that collects and compresses waste.

A little further on, the bearded man in his forties is having a video call with a colleague from the US. Hardiman has been living in the Netherlands since 2020, where he saw more opportunities to succeed with his startup plan than in South Africa. He participated in a growth program of PortXL, a company affiliated with the port of Rotterdam, for which Lokhorst worked. She joined the then fledgling startup in 2017.

Now, six years later, the company already employs 23 people. RanMarine has been profitable since 2021, according to Lokhorst. The company does not share profit and turnover figures. From the most recent summary profit and loss account that the company filed with the Chamber of Commerce (KvK), it can be concluded that RamMarine closed 2021 with a positive equity capital of more than 7 tons.

RanMarine raised an unknown amount of growth financing twice in its existence. According to Lokhorst, a “serious round of millions” is planned for April. With the upcoming millions, RanMarine hopes to be able to grow faster, especially in the US. The company is also investing in the development of larger aquadrones and robot boats that can extract oil from the water.

Rapid growth also seems to be necessary. In 2019, RanMarine was the first party to market an aquadrone. The market is now busier, with competitors in France, China and the US. Nevertheless, Lokhorst does not see a major threat in this: “The market is large enough for several parties. The positive thing about more competition is that this technique will become better known as a way to remove rubbish from the water.”

Article written by Jelmer Luimstra of Business Insider Nederland

Feb 23, 2023

Best robots of CES 2023

Editor’s Picks: best robots of CES 2023

The consumer electronics show (CES) is the largest event for consumer product launches in the world. I had the opportunity to attend CES for the first time this year, and it was an overwhelming experience. With over 3,200 vendors, there is so much to see that it would be impossible for one person to see and experience everything. That’s where pre-event research is critical to distill the vendor list down to a manageable size. I wanted to see over 60 robot-related products at CES 2023, and I only had two days to do so.

Here’s a recap of my favorite robotic solutions at CES 2023 (in no particular order):

Waste Shark by RanMarine

I stumbled on the Waste Shark by RanMarine in the Netherlands innovation area of CES Eureka Park. This was the serendipitous part of my CES adventure. Waste Shark is an autonomous marine vehicle that is designed to navigate small waterways and clear plastics, bio-waste and other debris from the surface of the water. The robot is completely autonomous but takes its basic design from its larger manned sibling, the Tender Shark.

The primary use case for Waste Shark is to operate on contained bodies of either fresh or salt water.  Parks, golf courses and amusement parks are just a few of the potential application areas for Waste Shark. The robot needs to return to the dock or shoreline when it’s time to remove the debris from its internal trap. It is a simple process to remove the trash basket as it slides out of the front of the vehicle for emptying.

The robot monitors its forward speed and determines that the trash basket is full when there is a measurable drag on the forward motion of the vehicle. Waste Shark can operate in salt water, but due to its small size should be restricted to operation in contained harbors.

Enchanted Tools – Mirokai

If you went to CES 2023 but didn’t meet Mirokai, don’t go looking for the booth that wasn’t there. Enchanted Tools showed off Mirokai in a private suite to an exclusive group of people. I was lucky enough to secure an invite.

There’s a lot to like, and a lot to question about the future of Mirokai as a commercial solution. What I liked about Mirokai was the top-notch overall design, form and function of the robot. The Enchanted Tools designers and engineering team did a fantastic job in pulling the whole design concept together. I love the face, head and interactivity of Mirokai – it’s immediately engaging.

With an animated face, there’s no uncanny valley to cross, and you are immediately enthralled (some might say enchanted) by the eyes, mouth and voice. This robot is built kinematically around a ball-bot, and there hasn’t been a commercially successful implementation of a ball-bot yet. With a moveable torso, head and arms, Mirokai is more complex than the original ball-bot designs.

The beauty of the ball-bot is in its fluid motion across the floor, and this supports the illusion of the Mirokai character. The downside (in my opinion) is that a ball-bot is dynamically stable, and any small disruption to its balance, such as pushing on the head or pulling on an arm, requires that the robot respond to keep its balance. In an ideal world with flat surfaces, the ball-bot can maintain its balance. However, the cluttered house of an elderly owner is going to present challenges to the navigation paradigm and balance-keeping algorithms for this class of robot design.

Overall, I give Mirokai high marks for design implementation and interactivity. It is the most pleasing service robot that I’ve ever interacted with.

What was a little over the top in the product introduction, is the whole mythology behind the Miroko world and the Mirokai characters. Enchanted Tools is trying to make a whole new set of characters and bring them to life. To make a social robot for the elder care use case, you don’t need to know the whole origin story behind it.

The company has already shown that it can give Mirokai a persona that is charming and fun to talk to. If Mirokai is used for entertainment, the company still has a lot of work to do to make videos, books and games that fit with the mythology.

New Ottonomy Yeti robot

The Ottonomy Yeti Ottobot features a holonomic drive and an automatic package delivery option. | Credit: Ottonomy

Ottonomy demoed the new Ottobot Yeti last-mile delivery robot at CES 2023. This new platform includes an entirely new drive platform that includes holonomic motion using a four-wheel swerve drive. The cargo-carrying payload platform has also been redesigned to be larger and more robust. The payload area includes two cargo bays that open autonomously, to allow a patron to remove only their order.

Yeti also features an optional autonomous cargo drop door. This enables Yeti to autonomously move a package (i.e. a box) from inside the cargo bay, onto the ground or into a locker.

Ottonomy received an RBR50 Award in 2021, for its first delivery application deployment within the Cincinnati Airport. Since that first generation, Ottonomy has continued to expand the capabilities of the platform, and to enable indoor to outdoor navigation. This capability makes Ottobot one of the few AMRs capable of both indoor and outdoor navigation with the same platform. The company is targeting curbside delivery for both grocery and mall-based restaurants as the initial market for the robots.

aeo by Aeolus Robotics

Aeolus Robotics demoed the second generation of its aeo social robot at CES2023. This latest generation of aeo is a complete redo of the robot design from the original model. The robot still features two fully articulating and vision-guided manipulators (i.e. arms).

aeo can be equipped with a number of different end effectors. The primary gripper is a two-fingered gripper, useful for picking up items, and opening drawers and doors.

The company has also developed (and demoed) the following end effectors:

  • Two fingered gripper
  • Large, general area UV disinfecting light
  • Small, door handle UV disinfecting light
  • Interactive tablet
  • Interactive phone, tablet and printer

The primary use case for aeo is elder care, and the company has deployed a number of aeo gen 2 units into elder care facilities in Japan. With the new capability to ride an elevator, aeo can now be deployed into multilevel facilities.

BIM Printer

The BIM Printer robot features a mobile frame with an X/Y plotter-style print unit to paint BIM data onto the building floor. | Credit: BIM Printer

The construction robotics market has evolved quickly over the last five years. One of the companies on my CES hit list was BIM Printer, a French robotics company that hasn’t spent much time in the U.S. prior to this event.

Unfortunately, the company didn’t have a live demo at the booth, but I spent some time talking to co-founder Vincent Agie. The robot is currently being employed to lay out the interior floor space for tenants at the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world).

Unlike the other BIM information printers on the market, BIM consists of two robots: a movable AMR frame that indexes across the floor to position the base unit, combined with an X/Y plotter that paints the BIM data onto the floor. The other automated BIM marking solutions on the market leverage an AMR that paints BIM data as it moves across the floor.

BIM Printer has an accuracy of 2 mm (0.079″) and achieves this accuracy through the use of a total station to localize the position of the robot. The go-to-market for the company is through survey company partners and construction service companies.

The company is also introducing a BIM ceiling printer that can mark all of the construction details onto the ceiling. This data includes the placement of walls, ducting, water, electrical and other utilities.

Robosen transformer toy robot

What would CES be without toy robots? There were plenty of consumer robotic toys on display, but I’ve chosen to discuss my favorite robotic plaything. Robosen is more than just a toy, its product line includes a number of transforming robot characters that range in price from $300 to $1000.

The current star of the Robosen product line (more on that later) is the Elite Optimus Prime auto-converting and programmable robot. The product is officially licensed and designed in collaboration with Hasbro.

Optimus Prime Robot is an auto-converting, interactive, programmable, voice-activated, mobile-controlled robotic toy. Robosen brings Optimus Prime to life with a fully immersive experience through voice-activated actions, mobile app controls, and endless hours of creative and fun ways to program Optimus Prime to walk, punch, blast, drive, and convert at the swipe of your finger, or command of your voice.

Next on the Robosen product roadmap will be the release of a fully articulated Disney Pixar cobranded Buzz Lightyear robot. | Credit: The Robot Report

RobotSmith material finishing workstation

RobotSmith is a fully enclosed grinding and polishing solution that uses CAD data to drive the robot paths for material finishing. | Credit: The Robot Report

RobotSmith was another serendipitous discovery I made in the Taiwan section of CES Eureka Park. This robotic work cell is a true industrial robot application that leverages an industrial robot arm to grind and polish metal objects. It wasn’t what I would have expected to discover at CES.

I was impressed by the integration between CAD model data, force feedback and AI-driven path generation in the solution. Robot Smith uses the CAD model of a part and a simulation environment to generate the grinding and polishing path. Next, it uses vision guidance to pick up unfinished physical parts from a material tray, and take the item to the various grinding and polishing station as the item is worked to the desired final state of finish.

Third Wave autonomous warehouse fork truck

ThirdWave had a static demo unit in the Ouster booth at CES2023. Credit: The Robot Report

The final discovery worth highlighting from CES 2023 is Third Wave Automation. The company is developing an automated pallet-moving fork truck for use in warehouses. The bay area company didn’t have its own booth, but it had a nonmoving demo unit of its autonomous fork truck on display at the Ouster booth.

The company is using Ouster LiDAR for navigation and obstacle avoidance. The AMR has three operational modes: (1) manual; (2) remote operation; (3) fully autonomous operation. Third Wave has implemented a controls package and sensor array that can retrofit an existing fork truck. The company is initially working with a fork truck partner Clark, and has built a package for the NPX20 vehicle. This vehicle has a load capacity of 4000 lbs (1800 kg).

Third Wave instruments the fork truck with vision cameras, LiDAR and other sensors such that a remote operator in the Third Wave remote operations center can monitor the movement of the robot. If the robot detects an issue such as a misaligned pallet, or it loses localization, the remote operator is alerted to the situation. The operator can then either remotely pilot the robot to safe location or resolve the issue to put it back into autonomous operation. Or the remote operator can alert an on-site operator to the situation and enable them to take local control of the vehicle to resolve the issue. At any time, the robot can be switched from autonomous mode to manual mode so that it can be operated under human control.

This control paradigm is a unique differentiator as many of the competitors are either manual/autonomous or remote/autonomous or manual/remote, but this is one of the first solutions that I’ve seen with the three operational modalities.


Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Editor of WTWH’s Robotics Group and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at moitzman@wtwhmedia.com.

Read the article on The Robot Report

Boyan Slats Ocean Cleanup does a good job, but it’s not a real business case

Sharks often attack their prey from below. Richard Hardiman’s WasteShark devours waste floating on the surface of the water. Where grabbing a terrace at the ‘Waterfront’ in Cape Town can all lead to.

Richard Hardiman “didn’t feel like talking about Britney Spears anymore.” Photo: Friso Keuris for Het Financieele Dagblad
As a brand new student at the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town, Richard Hardiman is sitting in the historic harbor on a terrace on the ‘Waterfront’ drinking a cup of coffee. Suddenly he sees a boat with two young men at sea. One of them steers the boat, the other tries to fish something out of the sea with a swimming pool net. The duo appears to be looking for floating plastic waste. That is not so easy with the landing net. While drinking coffee, Hardiman muses: nice that they do it, but how can it be more efficient?

His children watched the animation film Wall-E incessantly at the time , about a lone robot whose task is to clean up waste on a highly polluted earth that has since been abandoned by humans in the year 2805. Why not a Wall-E for water, Hardiman thought. . He took a napkin from the table and began to sketch. The first outlines of the autonomous WasteShark aquadrone appeared on the thin paper.

Richard Hardiman (47) is the son of a British couple – an engineer and an artist – who moved to South Africa from England. That sketch kept him busy for at least two years. By the end of his studies in 2015, he was still toying with the idea. “My mother then said that if I didn’t do it, someone else would pick it up.”

That made the difference. Hardiman quit his job as a radio presenter and journalist (“I’ve had enough of talking about Britney Spears too”), withdrew all his savings and left for Rotterdam.

From waste to algae
There he started in 2016 with a partner RanMarine, a high-tech company that develops aquadrones to collect waste on the water. WasteSharks – after the wide-mouthed whale shark – are now floating around the world, from Australia and India to Denmark and the United Kingdom. In Florida, the drone keeps all the lakes of Disneyland Orlando clean. “With all those snakes there, it’s less convenient to do it with a net,” says the CEO.

From the plastic waste that started his idea, the emphasis has increasingly shifted to algae. In July of this year, for example, a project started in Helsinki in which RanMarine uses aquadrones against blue-green algae in inland waters. The collected blue-green algae is then processed into cosmetics and animal feed.

There is more on the agenda. A project will start this month in the port of Rotterdam with a docking station for five WasteSharks. The self-propelled drones, equipped with advanced lidar technology, can do their job and recharge themselves at the station. If all goes well, no one is involved. The European Innovation Council EIC has reserved €1.5 million for it.

RanMarine, named after the goddess of the sea Ran in Norse myths, now employs twenty people. Technicians from TU Twente work here and a professor of offshore technology from TU Delft has been appointed as an advisor for the business side.

Other initiatives
There are other initiatives against ocean pollution, such as The Ocean Cleanup by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. What can Hardiman’s relatively small drones add? ‘The Ocean Cleanup is doing a good job’, says the entrepreneur. ‘But it’s not a real business case. Too few parties think it is important enough to invest in it.’

He then hurries to explain that the WasteSharks operate on inland waterways and ports and are so modest in size for a reason. ‘They should also be able to get into the small corners of canals, for example, if they detect pollution there with their cameras.’

A whole new line of sharks is on the program. Also a larger version, the MegaShark. And there must be an OilShark to gobble up leaked oil. All this requires new investments. ‘We want a listing in the United States and are preparing it now.’

Written by Renol Vestergaard

Read the article on Financieele Dagblad BV

Trash-eating drone tackles water pollution

Trash-eating drone tackles water pollution

Exclusive interview: H2O Global News’ Sion Geschwindt spoke with RanMarine CEO, Richard Hardiman, about water quality and how their autonomous drone – WasteShark – tackles polluted waterways

Published by H2O Global News

August is Water Quality Month – a time dedicated to the freshwater resources upon which we all depend. Maintaining and improving water quality is essential, but challenges such as pollution hamper these efforts.

Inland waterways like rivers and lakes are particularly susceptible. Chemicals, algal blooms, heavy metals, and bacteria are among the many threats to fresh water quality. Another is plastic.

While we tend to think of plastic pollution as a problem only affecting the world’s oceans, a lot of it originates and collects in freshwater systems before even reaching the sea.

Clearing up inland waters and harbours of plastic waste is crucial, but no easy task. To tackle the problem head on, Dutch start-up RanMarine have developed an autonomous water surface vehicle (ASV) – called WasteShark – which removes floating pollution such as plastics, algae and biomass from water bodies throughout the world.

The plastic problem

Plastics got us to the moon, facilitated huge advancements in medicine and transformed the manufacturing industry. The world as we know it today would be unrecognisable if it weren’t for this durable, versatile, and often indispensable, material.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. Yet, about 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.

The characteristics that render plastics so useful, also make them an environmental nightmare. Most of us have witnessed the shocking images of marine life tangled in fishing nets or beached whales who have ingested too much plastic waste. But the impacts go beyond the obvious.

River are the greatest source of plastic pollution to the ocean

Plastics break down into finer and finer particles – known as microplastics – which are often undetectable to the human eye. Microplastics can kill aquatic life and leach harmful chemicals into surrounding water bodies. These particles have been found at the top of Mount Everest and the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean.

According to a study published last year, rivers are the dominant source of plastic pollution in the marine environment. Cleaning up waste before it enters the ocean is crucial.

If you have ever participated in a beach or river clean-up you will know that collecting waste manually is no easy feat. However, technology aimed at simplifying the task of removing water surface pollution has been scarce to date – precisely why RanMarine designed WasteShark.


WasteShark is an easy to operate, carbon neutral, robotic, waste-eating-machine. The drone can collect 500kg of plastic waste and biomass every day, while gathering water quality data in the process.

“We aim to improve water quality on two levels,” said RanMarine CEO, Richard Hardiman. “Firstly, by removing plastic, waste, and excess algae from the water surface, and secondly by gathering data on water quality changes and possible sources of pollution.”

RanMarine CEO, Richard Hardiman, stands next to a WasteShark drone

“Water pollution is fast becoming an everyday issue for both governments and citizens” – Richard Hardiman

RanMarine aim to empower people and organizations across the planet to restore aquatic environments. Their data-driven autonomous technology empowers cities, municipalities, ports, marinas, waste managers, scientists and action groups, to clean-up and monitor their waters.

“Water pollution is fast becoming an everyday issue for both governments and citizens,” said Hardiman. “Using robots to continuously remove trash means we won’t see ugly build-ups of trash on the water, lose plastic to the oceans and see further damage to the environment.”

Accurate data regarding water quality is essential for water managers to make informed decisions. WasteShark has the ability to run the same route multiple times over successive days, tracking the movement, dispersion and potential improvement of the water over time using the same GPS coordinates. It can test for water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, conductivity, depth, turbidity, fluorometers, nitrates and other chemicals.

“We need to understand what is in our water, where that pollutant is coming from and be able to create predictions about when anomalies may occur or track down the offending polluter. The more accessible that data is, the better,” said Hardiman.

Smart cities    

Let’s face it, no one wants to spend all day every day cleaning up trash from waterways – but it’s a task that must be done. That is why automated, robotic solutions like WasteShark make so much sense – they do the dirty work, so we don’t have to.

To make the process even easier, RanMarine is currently working on a docking station that allows the drones to dock autonomously, remove their waste and recharge before going out on another mission, with very little human intervention.

WasteShark helps build smart cities

WasteSharks can be found operating across the world, from Singapore, to Sydney and Cape Town. They are helping many places throughout the world embark on their smart city journey.

Smart cities understand that designing better urban areas requires adopting digital technology that improves the well-being of its citizens and equips decision-makers with actionable data.

With 70% of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, deploying smart technologies like WasteShark can make urban areas more liveable, safe and sustainable. Is it going to solve the entire plastic crisis? Definitely not, but it’s a start.


From Combat to Cleaning Waterways

The oceans cover over 70 percent of the surface of the planet and provide over 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe. In addition, they absorb around 50 times more Co2 than our atmosphere does.

While paramount to life on Earth, our oceans are currently being threatened by plastic pollution, climate change, and overfishing. These threats can greatly harm precious marine life and the humans that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Marine scientists have long warned of the implications that ocean pollution poses to our very existence. Solutions have been actively sought that could potentially help humans minimize the pollution damage to our oceans.

When the first aerial drone (aka Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) came onto the market in Britain in 1935, people were blown away by the potential these devices held for society. Initially developed for aerial target practice by the Royal Air Force, drones have now become commonplace all over the world.

In 2013 major companies around the world, including Amazon, Uber and UPS began testing delivery concepts using drones and by 2020 drones were assisting in the delivery of medications and conducting mass disinfection during the Coronavirus outbreak.

But drones are not only used for combat or delivering medication and assistance during pandemics. Let’s examine a few ways drones are helping the oceans.

Drone use in marine conservation

Drones are revolutionizing conservation science in terms of how marine animals are being monitored and observed, allowing researchers to get closer to these animals than ever before without hampering their natural habitats.

In terms of marine conservation, drones can create high-resolution base maps of marine areas, proving far more superior to the images being obtained from Google Maps and Satellite Images. Georeferenced orthomosaics, for example, help research teams measure distances and features with true accuracy.

Drones are also able to fly at very low altitudes of 50 meters or lower, allowing operators to obtain photographic images for transects and species analysis. This approach completely removes the interference of the species’ habitats making it a far more effective way of gathering data in terms of marine conservation. What this means is that researchers are now able to produce more meaningful data in a more cost-effective way.

Underwater drones are also helping researchers to monitor the health of marine ecosystems. Previously hard-to-reach places can now be accessed by drones, bringing back water and sediment samples that help scientists determine the type of species inhabiting certain areas. Furthermore, drones have proved invaluable in helping scientists and researchers to better understand the impact of aquaculture operations on marine environments.

Another incredibly effective way drones are being used is in disentangling whales from fishing lines and marine debris. Once entangled, whales face starvation due to not being able to feed or drowning if they are not able to reach the surface for air. Before the use of drones, marine conservationists would need to reach entangled whales at least 3 times. Initially to assess the entanglement situation, then again to disentangle the whale, and lastly to ensure they were disentangled properly.

These operations were obviously very dangerous for conservationists. But thanks to sophisticated drones, marine conservationists can safely assess the damage and ensure the whales are properly freed by viewing images captured at close range by the drones. With the help of the drones, they only need to make an approach once to actually free the whales from entanglement since the viewed images from the drones help them to make accurate assessments before and after.

Not only are drones able to help free whales from man’s pollution, but they are effectively used to study whale and dolphin populations. The amount of data that can be simultaneously collected is astonishing. From collecting whale snot for analysis to determining the size of marine mammals, researchers now have a much deeper understanding of the behaviour of these ocean mammals thanks to the drone’s ability to monitor them at closer range without interfering with their natural habitats.

Previously, hydrophones were used to capture and monitor whale vocalizations. But thanks to another type of drone called EarBot, this process has become relatively easy. The drone lands in the water near the whales, turns off its engines, and records the whale vocalizations while simultaneously transmitting data directly back to the boat.

Can Drones Clean Our Waterways?

It’s incredible that drones can offer support with so many ocean conservation issues. Therefore, it is no surprise that drones could also be the answer to ocean pollution.

RanMarine Technology’s WasteShark (aka an autonomous surface vehicle or ASV) is a 1.57 meter water drone that collects debris and biomass from the surface of waterways before this pollution reaches the sea.

Referred to as the “trash-eating ocean drone” by many, WasteShark was modeled after the whale shark, the world’s largest fish. It’s designed to be a long-term and efficient solution that is unobtrusive and non-threatening to living beings in the water. It’s a low-cost solution that is easily transportable, easy to operate, and results in zero greenhouse emissions.

Its charge can last up to 10 hours, and in this time, it collects waste but can also collect data using sensor probes. In addition, multiple WasteSharks can work together, covering more water and collecting other waste. Its use in rural, urban, leisure, and industrial environments is truly impressive.

Currently, waste poses enormous implications for the ecosystems in our oceans. But thanks to ocean pioneers like RanMarine Technology, we finally have a highly effective solution to marine pollution.

A Drone Army Is Rising Against Ocean Plastics

Solutions to remove garbage from the sea have boomed in past years, but a lot more is needed to end plastic pollution


The garbage-collecting BeachBot rover during a demonstration at a beach in the Netherlands.

The garbage-collecting BeachBot rover during a demonstration at a beach in the Netherlands. Source: TechTics/Project.BB

Floating drones inspired by whale sharks and four-wheeled robots that resemble the Mars rover are among the latest inventions designed to remove litter from the oceans.

The number of tools to monitor, prevent and clean up ocean pollution has grown almost exponentially over the past four years, according to a paper published in Nature Sustainability. The research, led by biologist Nikoleta Bellou at the Institute of Coastal Research Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, is the most comprehensive analysis of sea-cleaning solutions to date.

“Unfortunately more focus at a policy level is being given to banning single-use plastics,” Bellou said. “But we already have polluted the oceans and we need to do something to retrieve that, simultaneously to all the actions needed to reduce pollution at the source.”

Chemicals, fossil fuels and plastics are present in all of the world’s oceans and have been found both at the surface and at the bottom of the seas. Marine litter threatens the survival of wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles because they can get tangled in it or confuse it with food. Tiny pieces of plastic known as microplastics can make their way up the food chain, eventually ending up in human bodies.

relates to A Drone Army Is Rising Against Ocean Plastics
MAPP bot has been designed to detect small pieces of garbage in beaches.  Source: TechTics/Project.BB

As many as 91 million metric tons of litter entered the oceans between 1990 and 2015, as much as 87% of which was plastic, according to the research. An estimated 5.25 trillion particles of litter are currently floating in the oceans.

While the impacts of polluting the seas were reasonably understood by the end of the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2016 that solutions to address the problem really took off. Of the 177 methods analyzed by Bellou and her colleagues, 73% were only developed in the past four years. Most approaches so far address monitoring, with only 30 aimed at clean up, the research found. Most focus on large litter floating on the surface, meaning microplastics at the bottom of the sea remain an unresolved issue.

Funding soared in 2014 after the European Union launched research programs such as the nearly 80 billion-euro ($97 billion) Horizon2020 initiative. About half of the ocean projects available today were government-funded, while a third were paid for through collaborations between nonprofit organizations, the public and companies, according to the paper.

The new research, which doesn’t reveal which specific projects Bellou and her team analyzed, points to a wide range of inventions—and the challenges of scaling them up.

relates to A Drone Army Is Rising Against Ocean PlasticsRanMarine’s WasteShark collects litter floating on the surface of rivers and canals.
Source: RanMarine

Solutions invented over the past few years include sea garbage bins, giant plastic-collecting barriers and a marine drone that collects floating garbage through a wide opening that mimics the mouths of whale sharks.

There’s also BeachBot, a garbage-collecting rover that picks up small litter like cigarette butts, single-use cutlery or plastic bottle caps from beaches. Creators Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos sought the help of students at University of Technology Delft in the Netherlands to develop an algorithm which teaches the robot to distinguish between types of trash.

“It’s nice to develop a robot solution, but that’s not the solution to the wider problem,” Bos said. “Behavior needs to change and our goal is to make people interact and engage with the robot to make it smarter, but also to learn about the impact of litter themselves.”

A BeachBot prototype has been deployed in several locations in the Netherlands and the two entrepreneurs say they’re ready to move toward launching the product. The next challenge is to find the right business model to ensure BeachBot doesn’t just clean, but also educates the public and changes behaviors.

Despite recent efforts, a lot more will be needed to make a dent in ocean plastic pollution, Bellou’s paper concluded. Plastic production and waste accumulates faster than the inventions to reduce it. By some calculations, it would take about a century to remove 5% of plastics currently in the oceans using only clean-up devices.

Article by Bloomberg Green


Drones for Trash Clean Up in Waterways Could Save the Oceans

A project using drones for trash clean up in Denmark could show the way to saving the oceans from an environmental disaster caused by the massive volume of plastic that pollutes them.  (Part two of a two-part series on the use of drone-captured images and machine-learning software in the cause of cleaning up the environment.)

Project combines use of flying, floating drones for trash ID and collection, to clean up Danish waterways

Denmark has launched a unique experimental project, combining both unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned watercraft to combat oil slicks and floating trash in the nation’s waters.

The CityShark program, designed to coordinate the use of the two different types of drones, began in July 2019, with the use by the Danish coastal city of Aarhus of WasteShark, an unmanned waste-gobbling sailing vessel, manufactured by Rotterdam-based RanMarine Technology.
In the first phase of the project, the WasteShark, owned by the Port of Aarhus, autonomously roamed the waters at the mouth of the Aarhus River where the river flows into the harbor, and scooped up solid waste — plastic bottles, single-use cups, plastic bags and other floating debris. The WasteShark is able to collect 500 kilograms (about 1,100 pounds) of debris each day.
Read full article by DroneLife