WasteShark: River Trash Traps Chew at Huge Ocean Plastics Problem

WasteShark, a drone cum trash trap may be the answer to solving the ocean plastic problems. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

How do river trash traps help eliminate ocean plastic?

WasteShark is a boxy, 5-foot 2-inch-long aquatic drone cleaning up plastic waste in a pond in Rotterdam, maybe a solution to clean plastic waste in the water. Known as the WasteShark, the device is an aqua drone that removes plastic and debris floating on water surfaces. According to RanMarine Technology, the drone is capable of holding 42 gallons of trash and other floating debris. It can also mop up plants and algae floating on water and operate for eight hours after a single charge.

“So we wanted it to be as easy to deploy as possible, as easy to capture the trash and bring it back to land, make it safer so that the operator is stood on the shore rather than was in the water, make it battery operated, so it was zero emissions, not diesel or fossil fuel-powered. And it was easy to store away,” said Richard Hardiman, the CEO, and founder of RanMarine.“A lot of the time our customers have bigger boats that need a captain and a lot of maintenance and a lot of mechanical movement to make them work. We wanted something very sleek, very simple, get the trash out and start recycling faster than what has been done right now,” he added.

More on the WasteShark

The concept inspired by the whale shark, the majestic creature that swims with its mouth open is revolutionary. “The WasteShark was based on the whale shark, which has a large mouth for capturing its prey. So that’s why we have two pontoons, one on each side. So that the waste can come in from the front. And it gets trapped in between the pontoons,” explained Tessa Despinic. Despinic is the design engineer of the miraculous product. According to the developers, they were successful in selling over 40 aquatic drones. With the price starting from $25,600, the basic model comes with a manually controlled option. Higher-end models are programmable.

This is one of the many techniques present for reducing the plastic waste problem . As trash is washed away, thrown, or blown into waterways, storm drains close up or carry them forward.“ Once plastic or trash ends up in the ocean, it’s very hard to collect because it does break down. And so it gets smaller and smaller and it’s just hard to get out to our big open oceans and collect the trash there. We’d much rather collect that trash closer to shore, which is easier, it’s less costly,” stated Nancy Wallace. Wallace is the director of the Marine Debris Program under the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“The most important thing with marine debris or plastic or trash in our ocean is we don’t want it there in the first place. So while all of these devices are incredibly helpful, we need to work on the upstream solutions of generating less waste from the consumer standpoint, but also the industry standpoint. And so there’s a lot of different players that are going to help solve this problem overall,” added Wallace. Ocean life is declining due to rising temperatures, plastic debris, and human interference. This waste trapper is possible a way to help them.

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Smart Cities’ Challenge: Bridging Data, In Real Time

“Smart cities” are a technology-driven approach to many previously irretractable urban problems, from alleviating congestion to improving pedestrian safety to enhancing water quality. While tier-1 cities such as San Francisco and Denver may come to mind as leaders in smart city technology deployment, look no further than Chattanooga, Tennessee. This picturesque city, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is an example of a smart city employing cutting-edge approaches to improve residents’ lives and mobility.

Kevin Comstock, smart city director for the City of Chattanooga, recently shared his experiences and insights on making the shift to smart in a panel joined by Richard Hardiman, CEO and founder of RanMarine, and William Muller, vice president of business development for Seoul Robotics. I had the opportunity to moderate the discussion.

Panelists are optimistic about the inroads smart cities will be making in transportation and civic life over the coming decade. Comstock sees smart cities paving the way for improved health, energy and mobility, “key areas smart cities can focus on and make tangible improvements over the next five to ten years.”

Data is the key, and is now available from a range of sources across cities. Muller says the key to smart city growth will be bringing this data together from different technologies and systems, “and making it useful as a whole big picture.” “Open” is the operative word, he adds. “Data is going to need to be accessible to many different parties, from connected vehicles, to transportation systems, to a person down the street looking at his cell phone.”

Chattanooga has been taking these steps, implementing a centralized hub that monitors real-time information on the health of its transportation network, as well as cameras that detect vehicles — both cars and bicycles — for better operation of traffic signals. The city has also been tying its databases together from sources across both the city and county to compile information about delays, congestion, construction, where parking or transit options are most available, and providing that information to the public in an open architecture format.
Comstock’s team has also been working with academia on a US Department of Transportation connected vehicle program test bed project which provides Chattanooga with one of the first connected vehicle projects in the country. The project is intended to provide connection between freight, transit and emergency vehicles, as well as monitor pollution and self-adjusting signals to compensate for increases in the pollution and other factors. “At the end of the day, businesses want to get their goods or deliver their goods,” says Comstock. “The more robust and smart the system, the more reliable sustainable system or delivery platform, the better off they’re going to be. The economic development piece of that becomes more in play at that point in time.”

Connected vehicles have caught the attention of many smart city planners, but the proliferation if autonomous vehicles is still some time away. “I don’t believe we’re in autonomous vehicles state yet, but we’ll definitely be there over the coming decade,” says Comstock. “We have to have connectivity before we have autonomy. The first generation of autonomous vehicles “are going to deliver pizza, groceries and packages before they ever deliver people,” Comstock cautions. “Until those platforms are discovered and vetted out, a certain safety protocol has been addressed.”

Autonomous vehicles currently have found their place in “very active in heavy industries, especially mining, and things like that, where the environments are more conducive to that technology,” says Muller. “The same technology developed for those industries, specifically the 3D data, 3D LIDAR sensors and 3D radars, are going to be beneficial for smart cities.”

Expect to see increased automation as well across the board, Hardiman says — a point demonstrated by the Covid crisis. “When we have a complete shutdown of the cities because of a pandemic, with the loss of taxes, we realize we need to rely on nonhuman functionality in many ways. Robotics is a potential cure-all to the next pandemic or the next event. We can survive better as a city, as a community, using robotics.”

The key to these efforts is data, and the ability to move it quickly to where it’s needed. “We have an organization within the city government that’s called the Office of Operational Management and Open Data,” Comstock explains. “We look at the resources that we have, the different data sets, different databases, and pull information into a centralized location.” One aspect is development of a LIDAR-based data system “to look at pedestrian safety as a key component of utilizing technology and help solve the problem.”

Another initiative Chattanooga is undertaking is “looking at a predictive crash model — taking and aggregating data from across the city in conjunction with the police department and others, to pull together a roadmap and this general understanding of what our pain points are, and how we can help mitigate some of those things before they become a problem. It’s about proactive thinking about these things, applying them in new ways.”

Even for the smallest-scale project, such as making an intersection or crossing smart, is the large number of components involved,” says Muller. “A lot of different technologies are needed to solve singular problems within a particular intersection.”

Along with open data, another challenge for smart cities is achieving interoperability between cities and government agencies at all levels, Comstock points out. “We recognize that the interoperability between a city like Chattanooga and state departments of transportation or the other agencies that surround us, like Atlanta or Nashville, that implementations performed here need to work in other locations, and people that come in from those locations need to work here,” says Comstock. “There needs to be an Internet of Things approach to how we look at technologies. For example, right now you can use a cell phone. It doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, or who your carrier is. You can call anyone in the world at any point in time. The agnostic features of that need to be replicated in a smart cities environment.”

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