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Underwater Drones Tasked in Clean-Up of Norway’s Fjords

Blueye Pioneer


Underwater Drones Tasked in Clean-Up of Norway’s Fjords

For decades environmentalists have declared our oceans to be the Earth’s last frontier; worldwide, the health and survival of our oceans is being threatened by pollution. Most experts are concerned that for future generations these natural and wonderful treasures will be lost.

The fjords of Norway in particular have always provided us with inspiration, especially in winter, when the icy terrain shimmers and mirrors a pristine snow-capped mountain panorama. But under that seemingly untouched vista, in the depths of the fjords lies another picture which is far less appealing.

The Oslo Fjord, which is 62 miles (100km) long and stretches out from the capital, has been revealed to be a treasure trove in some respects but also harbours a level of junk and rubbish which has appalled and alarmed environmentalists, reports the The New York Times.

Whilst a range of sunken Viking treasures and possibly bullion from Hitler’s prized warships might delight some enthusiasts, realistically the fjord is mainly filled with garbage such as unwanted cars and other household waste. Mayor Solve Stubberud, general secretary of the Norwegian Divers Federation confirms that in the past it was common practice to dispose of unwanted cars by ‘putting them on the ice’.

But the Norwegian capital is now on a mission to reverse such practices and is using new technology to help locate the garbage so that divers can clear it off the seabed, they plan to do this by launching a pioneering trash-removal project. Svein Olav Lunde, the Chief Technical Officer of the Oslo Port Authority says they plan to test out underwater drones, to help locate underwater “islands of trash.” Oslo might well be the first port in the world to trial drones in underwater clean-up efforts.

As it happens Norwegian company Blueye Robotics’ first product is Blueye Pioneer, a professional level underwater drone / remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This underwater drone has a special light-sensitive camera able to deliver true colour and has exceptional stability even in adverse ocean conditions. Blueye Pioneer, can be operated with a smartphone, tablet or PC and is extremely user friendly.

The plan is for these drones to plunge into the icy depths of Oslo Fjord this spring to perform initial reconnaissance. An electric-powered ship with a crane will join the cleanup fleet by next year (2019).

The reason why Oslo is resorting to drone technology to clean up it’s waters is to some extent due to the exposure by the media early this year of a bloodied, beached  dead dolphin, ensnared in plastic. The gory images of the carcass, taken on a trash-strewn shore of Oslo Fjord, resonated on social media among Norwegians, who were shocked to see their jagged coastline, a paragon of untouched natural beauty, displayed this way.

While the current initiative is driven in the main by environmentalists, politicians and the public have shown more interest in the cleanup campaign in the past two years and plastic is recognized as the” real problem.”

Oslo has ambitious plans to clean up the city’s industrial waste and sewage, along with a proposal for a car-free city centre and a ban on using oil to heat buildings that is to go into effect in 2020. Campaigns like these won Oslo the European Green Capital Award for 2019.

According to Christine Spiten, a drone operator and tech entrepreneur, at Oslo’s Lysaker River, which forms the boundary between the municipalities of Oslo and Baerum, harbours ‘whole households of furniture’.

Spiten has linked a video game controller and touch screen to the underwater drone BluEye, and in a demonstration to representatives of the port authority and Norway’s shipping industry at the mouth of the river in February, she uncovered a rusty red bike and showed how drones could save time, money and hassle in cleaning the seabed.

Spiten and her team engineered the drone’s technology; Spiten is a favourite to take home the contract, but will undoubtedly face stiff competition from international drone makers

Roger Schjerva, chairman of the port authority, says even more important items in the fjords need urgent attention: more than 1,550 mines dating back to World War II. a spokesman for the Royal Norwegian Navy says of the 270 that have been located so far, around 100 of those have been detonated, but this action in the fjords can damage ships and fish; the mines are also leaking.

Schjerva says “another wave of mine sweeping may come to the fjords and”, but removing remaining mines from World War II remains a priority.

Geir Rognlien Elgvin, says he believes that Oslo’s port will be the first in the world to try this sort of trash removal technique.

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