This Aquatic Robot Is Making a Meal Out of Marine Waste

RanMarine has created the world’s first autonomous marine robot. Utilizing drone technology, it can collect up to 500 kg of plastic waste and destructive biomass each day, harmoniously clearing up and monitoring our waters.

As WH Auden once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” Vital to all life on earth, our biosphere and everything living upon it would perish without it.

Despite water’s importance and our dependence on it, our continued pollution of it is putting this crucial resource at risk — our oceans are plagued by plastic to the tune of approximately 5.2 trillion macro and micro pieces, killing 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals each year; toxic algal blooms are becoming more frequent and deadly, with 400 marine dead zones worldwide; and contaminated water is killing an estimated 1.2 million people each year.

In an attempt to address the severity of the situation, Dutch tech startup RanMarine is on a mission to restore the marine environment to its natural state by cleaning up our waters. It has developed the world’s first marine robot specifically designed to eat marine waste and collect data on our polluted waterways. Inspired by the way in which whale sharks suck in food and filter out water, the company’s WasteShark autonomous surface vessel (ASV) is “taking a bite out of water pollution.”

The zero-emission WasteSharks use drone technology to vacuum up plastic waste and biomass. Each one can collect up to 500 kg of waste per day, with a battery capacity of 8 hours on one charge. They’re designed to be efficient, unobtrusive and harmonious with the environment.

“We are particularly proud of the fact that zero carbon is emitted while using the WasteShark,” RanMarine founder and CEO Richard Hardiman told Sustainable Brands®. “With batteries that can be charged from the local grid or powered by solar storage systems, the WasteShark leaves no oil slicks, emits no toxic fumes and is unobtrusive on the water. These attributes ensure that it is the perfect solution for working in environments where wildlife is present — it allows you to safely collect harmful biomass and waste remotely from the shore or quayside.”

The WasteSharks’ operational routes are predetermined by the user. They carry out these routes via GPS navigation and can return home at the end of their ‘shift.’ The manual WasteSharks are essentially drones that travel through water, rather than air. They use the same technology and camera systems as a typical flying drone — including a hand-held controller. The automated drones, on the other hand, use ROS software to manage the complexity of being autonomous and having to “think for themselves” whilst deployed.

Although a mission plan is set out by the user on our web portal, RanMarineConnect, the Sharks have to be able to navigate and avoid obstacles that may not have been there at the time of planning; typically these include moving boats, moored vessels or unplanned obstacles,” Hardiman explains. “Here, we use our own internal software to navigate the drone safely to make sure the WasteShark can still do its job without endangering or colliding with other vessels.”

Data collected from the WasteSharks is geo-tagged and time-stamped, providing an accurate picture of the water quality health within an area. This representation helps verify compliance with pollution regulations, identifies potential contaminants early to minimize the impact on the environment and creates cleaner aquatic environments.

Written by Scarlett Buckley and published in Substainable Brands

“The aquatic drones can also be configured with different sensors to help monitor temperature; depth; dissolved oxygen; turbidity; blue-green algae; crude, refined oils and more. Any data collected is immediately available for reporting and analysis through the WasteShark Data Portal,” Hardiman says.

The RanMarineConnect portal allows clients to upload collected data for their own research and analysis. In the future, the RanMarine team is hoping to develop a data-sharing platform between users; but this is still at a conceptual stage.

More than 40 WasteSharks have been deployed across the globe — including in DenmarkSingapore, the UKUSAustralia and South Korea. Some of WasteShark’s clients include well-known theme parks in Orlando; the Port of Houston, Texas; and United Nations projects in Lebanon.

Hardiman says RanMarine will launch a larger WasteShark in the next six months that is capable of removing 1 ton of waste in a single load; he anticipates it being commercially available by the end of the year.

“We are also developing a docking station which houses up to 5 WasteSharks at a time, empties their baskets automatically and recharges them,” he added, “making it a total autonomous solution where humans are only required for oversight.”

From aquatic drones to AI beach buggies and enzymes that ‘eat’ polyester

The solutions being developed to clean up the 199 MILLION tonnes of plastic littering our oceans

  • Scientists and engineers are working to find solutions to the global problem of ocean plastic
  • Technologies like seabins, plastic interceptors and aquatic drones are currently being utilised
  • Plastic-eating enzymes, microbe nets and magnetic liquids are being scaled up, but show promise
  • MailOnline looks at how else we are working to remove rubbish from our oceans and rivers

Plastic waste is being discovered in increasingly remote locations around the world, from fresh Antarctic snow to the mountain air above the Pyrenees.

According to the World Economic Forum, between 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently in our oceans.

This ranges from large floating debris to microplastics, which form as the bigger pieces of waste break down.

As a result, scientists and engineers are working hard to find new solutions to the global problem of plastic pollution.

These include aquatic drones that can be programmed to scoop up floating debris from the surface of rivers, and buggies that use artificial intelligence (AI) to search for and pick up litter for use on beaches.

Scientists are also hoping to scale up the use of magnetic nano-scale springs that hook on to microplastics and break them down.

MailOnline takes a closer a look at some of the technologies currently being used to reduce the man-made debris in our oceans, and those that are still in development.

MailOnline takes a closer look at ten new technologies that are helping to remove man-made garbage from Earth's oceans, including plastic-eating enzymes and marine drones

MailOnline takes a closer look at ten new technologies that are helping to remove man-made garbage from Earth’s oceans, including plastic-eating enzymes and marine drones

According to the World Economic Forum, between 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently floating in our oceans, with millions of tons more dumped every year

According to the World Economic Forum, between 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently floating in our oceans, with millions of tons more dumped every year

To read the article by Mail on Line see this link

Is your Sunscreen harming the Ocean?

While eight million metric tons of plastic pollution enter the ocean annually, it’s estimated that six to fourteen thousand tons of sunscreen are also entering our oceans each year. The first you can see, the latter (known as “swimmer pollution”) you can’t really see and this makes it even more dangerous. These days most people are coming to understand just how dangerous plastic pollution is to the ocean due to increased education through social media channels. But there isn’t much awareness out there regarding the damaging effects that sunscreen lotions inflict on our sensitive marine animals and ecosystems.

While we have all been taught to use sunscreen as a way to protect ourselves from skin cancer, we are only starting to understand how harmful the chemicals contained in these products are to the oceans.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. About 2,000 people die from basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer each year and older folks with suppressed immune systems have a higher risk of dying from these types of skin cancer, according to cancer.net.

Effects of sunscreen chemicals in our oceans

The average sunscreen product contains many harmful chemicals, many of which include synthetic organic molecules exactly like those used to make plastic. These molecules do not break down. Instead, they wash off your body once you enter the water and penetrate marine ecosystems, causing havoc and destruction.

Harmful chemicals in sunscreen include Oxybenzone, a common chemical that protects our skin from UV light. Once in the ocean, however, this particular chemical damages the DNA structures of coral reefs and their entire reproduction processes. This, in turn, causes bleaching, deformities, and growth anomalies in the coral. Coral reefs don’t just benefit the ocean, but healthy coral reefs provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services, such as food, tourism, and coastal protection. The most vulnerable coral reefs under threat from these sunscreen chemicals include fringing reefs that are critical for protecting coastal regions from erosion. Not only that, but dangerous chemicals in sunscreens actually prevent the recovery and restoration of reefs that have already been damaged, creating a vicious cycle of degradation upon degradation.

Effects of sunscreen chemicals in humans

Research has shown that the damage Oxybenzone causes is even more far-reaching, creating gender shifts in fish that cause female fish to produce fewer eggs. If this chemical can affect reproduction in marine animals, imagine the effects on humans. Recent studies have shown that human females with higher concentrations of the chemical in their bodies had a much harder time falling pregnant, while the high concentration in males caused diseased sperm.

Effects of sunscreen chemicals in algae

Oxybenzone doesn’t only destroy certain coral reefs, it also impairs algae growth and photosynthesis, while harming other marine life in the process.

Algae contribute to a healthier ocean since they use up the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then release oxygen back. Algae also maintain a highly symbiotic relationship with various ocean organisms including sea sponges. Since the algae live near the sponges’ surface, they actually metabolize and produce sugar and oxygen that the sponges need for their very survival. The sponges, in turn, help to protect the algae from their natural predators in the ocean.

Krill feed primarily on algae. Krill are shrimp-like organisms that are fodder to many marine animals including whales, seals, and penguins.

The ocean is an ever-changing watery world filled with marine plants of every kind that are subjected to ocean currents and environmental conditions.

At times certain environmental conditions can cause cold, denser water to sink to the bottom of the ocean, thereby causing other waters to rise in replacement. When this happens you get algal blooms. When there are more algae, there are more compounds produced for organisms such as oysters, mussels, and ultimately, humans. But algae blooms can also be harmful to marine life since a proliferation of surface floating algae can diminish the sunlight reaching marine plants causing dead zones.

While algae blooms can be very problematic, certain algae are very necessary for the maintenance of ecosystems.

Regulatory agencies

There are many regulatory agencies monitoring the damage that chemicals have on our health.  Including the European Chemical Agency that lists many chemicals most commonly used in sunscreen products in Europe. The list is called the Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) and includes ingredients like Formaldehyde, Carbon Tetrachloride, and Methanol. Due to their potential threat to the environment and our personal health, this list has raised the ultimate possibility of a ban. In Hawaii, for example, bans on certain sunscreen product ingredients have already been implemented to safeguard coral reefs in certain coral hotspots.

Harmful chemicals in sunscreens

Another common ingredient in sunscreens is the preservative paraben that inhibits fungal and bacterial growth. Lower concentrations of this preservative can act as endocrine and pheromone disruptors.  Higher concentrations can be acutely toxic to invertebrates.

According to savethereef.org you should avoid sunscreens containing these harmful chemicals:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”
Looking to the oceans for a solution to improve sunscreens

Just because your sunscreen might be labeled “organic” or have an “organic certification” doesn’t mean it’s safe for the environment. Several plant-based oils can also damage marine life. Take for example 3 common essential oils like neem, eucalyptus, and lavender that are present in some organic sunscreens. These oils act like insect repellants suggesting they are relatively toxic for invertebrates (crabs, squid, lobster, coral, etc).

Sunscreen is vital in protecting us from skin cancer and UVR damage.  But what are the alternatives to commercial sunscreens that are damaging our marine life?

We can actually look to the oceans for protection against UV rays and sun damage. Many marine species who are exposed to the sun on a continual basis have effectively evolved to protect themselves from UVR damage. The way this works is fascinating.

Algae, for example, produces MAA (mycosporine-like amino acids) which act as natural UVR filters. These amino acids then make their way up the food chain. Once they reach coral and other marine life they are essentially stored in the very tissues exposed to UVR like skin, eyes, and eggs. MAA then absorbs the UVR and converts it to light and heat which isn’t broken down by the radiation. Scientists are only beginning to explore the potential that these compounds can have in the production of ocean-friendly sunscreens.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen

So before heading out to enjoy the beach this summer, grab a reef-safe sunscreen. This typically means that the sunscreen contains only mineral UV-blocking ingredients like oxide and titanium dioxide. Be aware that the label “Reef Friendly” isn’t regulated.  Meaning that some products that contain this label don’t necessarily mean what they imply.

Check out this list of reef-friendly sunscreen products at Save the Reef (they also list the sunscreen products that are harmful to reefs).  Be the exception on the beach this summer. Our marine life depends on humans educating themselves about the damaging effects of the chemicals we put on our skins.

For more information, watch our video: Ways to Protect Coral Reefs

New floating drones could help fight plastic pollution

Floating drones inspired by whale sharks and four-wheeled robots are the latest inventions in an attempt to address plastic pollution, Bloomberg reports.

RanMarine Technology, an organization based in Rotterdam, has developed what they call a ‘WasteShark’ that collects waste through a wide opening that mimics a whale shark. The WasteShark is an autonomous surface vessel, this means that it requires no supervision as it can be left in the chosen water body, with a preset route, using GPS to navigate and then return home.

The organisation claims that the WasteShark can collect up to 500kg of waste per day. There is also a four-wheeled version, a beachbot, that collects small litter like cigarette butts and bottle caps. You can view the WasteShark in action on the canals of Holland below.


A recent publication in Nature Sustainability provided a comprehensive analysis of the solutions to tackle marine litter. Even though policies are being created to address plastic pollution, such as the decision taken by Tanzania in 2019 to ban all plastic bags in the country, the publication brings up the issue of the existing plastic in our oceans.

The research was led by biologist Nikoleta Bellou who commented that “the oceans have already been polluted to such an extent, simultaneous to all the actions needed to reduce pollution at the source”.

Plastics pollution is piling up faster than initiatives to correct it, with calculations indicating that it will take about 100 years to retrieve 5% of plastic in the oceans

As much as 91 million tons have entered the world’s oceans between 1980 and 2015, with more than 8 million tons entering the oceans every year. What we see on the surface is only 5% of the plastic in the oceans. plastic has contaminated the darkest parts of the Mariana trench and is so widespread that it is estimated that by 2050, 99% of seabirds would have ingested plastic.

The worsening plastic pollution on the planet seems as if our reality is coming to represent Pixar’s 2008  film, Wall-E, where the earth so despoiled that it is no longer inhabitable that humans are living in some kind of space-ark while a robot is left to clean up the waste. But this is just a movie…

To prevent this dystopia,  policies to avoid disincentive plastic production and encourage a circular economy as well as public education on the harms of plastic are needed in collaboration with technofixes such as the WasteShark. In 2010, South Africa ranked 11th on the list of the worst offenders regarding plastic pollution in the ocean. South Africa only recycles 16% of its plastic, where the rest end up in landfills where they can easily blow into rivers and eventually, the ocean.

Article by Getaway



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.