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Floating Drones Are Swallowing Tons of Plastic Waste Before it Reaches Ocean

in Enviroment 435 views

From Chennai to Trentino alto Adige to Baltimore, inventors are churning out methods of stopping plastic pollution from entering the ocean by picking it out of riverways.

They come in different shapes and sizes, and a Dutch company just added a whale-shark inspired drone that can cobble 160 liters of waste to the mix.

Developed by RanMarine in Rotterdam, the drone project was both straightforward, but with a pretty long checklist. It had to be automated, zero-emissions, easy to use, economic to deploy and maintain, and be able to clean a freshwater environment without harming it.

The result is WasteShark, which is about 4 feet long, and quietly captures trash in a tray between its two pontoons. Like the whale shark that provided its inspiration, a grid stops anything sizeable from entering its mouth, until it detects trash and the grid is lowered.

One the drone is filled, it’s steered back to the water’s edge, where the tray can be easily removed, and emptied into a larger receptacle.

A world of river cleaning devices

All kinds of strategies exist for capturing plastic before it pollutes the ocean. WasteShark is perfect for lakes, and other large ponds where the trash will mostly bob around.

Other challenges and strategies exist in countries around the world. On the river Cooum that runs through the city of Chennai in India, whatever equipment AlphaMERS Ltd. used to plan their cleanup had to be able to withstand the flooding force of the monsoon rains.

Their solution was steel mesh that is draped diagonally across the flow of the river, arresting the trash, but allowing boat traffic to pass over undisturbed. The Floating Trash Barrier (FTB) collected 2,200 tonnes of plastic in the first year. AlphaMERS have also developed drones that clean up oil spills by sifting the sludge out and separating it from the water inside their robot bodies.

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