As of 2016 there were approximately 150 million metric tons of plastic in the world’s oceans, per a report by the World Economic Forum. Several attempts are on to contain this pollution hazard.
Esan Swan from CNN reports on a trash-eating ‘shark’ drone developed by Dutch company RanMarine. Much like a shark prowling the coastline this WasteShark waterborne drone with its whale shark-like mouth terrorizes floating trash not people. The marine drone will begin operations in Dubai Marina in November after a year of trials with local partner Ecocoast.
According to RanMarine, the WasteShark was conceived in 2016. Measuring just over five feet by three-and-a-half feet (1.5 meters by 1.1 meter),with an operational battery life of 16 hours, it has the capacity to carry up to 352 lbs of trash (159.6 kg) and is available in both autonomous and remote-controlled models.
Oliver Cunningham, one of the co-founders of RanMarine claims that WasteShark collects waste, instead of just vacuuming up krill. It also has the capabilities of assimilating air and water quality data; filtering chemicals such as oil, arsenic, and heavy metals out of the water, through filtering pads, and can scan the seabed to read its depth and contours. Fitted with a collision-avoidance system, the drone uses laser imaging detection and ranging technology to detect an object in its path and stop or back up if the object approaches, he added.
“Our drones are designed to move through (a) water system, whether it’s around the perimeter or through the city itself. The drones (are) that last line of defence between the city and the open ocean,” said Cunningham. WasteSharks operational in Dubai, South Africa and the Netherlands and cost $17,000 for the remote-controlled model and just under $23,000 for the autonomous model, said Cunningham.
Reviews from Dubai-based operator Ecocoast which has two WasteShark drones operating in the emirate are encouraging. Co-founder Dana Liparts says they will be responsible for cleaning waterfronts for clients including hotels and municipalities and environmental authorities. Liparts added that Ecocoast’s intention is to have the collected trash recycled or upcycled. John Burt, associate professor of biology at NYU Abu Dhabi, isn’t entirely convinced by the WasteShark just yet. He said size may be an issue. “In terms of the units that are currently being deployed, I think they’re relatively small and going to have a minor impact. But if it’s proof of concept for the principle, then potentially it could be used on a larger scale,” he said.
With reports from December 2014 estimating that over a quarter of a million tons of ocean plastic pollution was afloat, Liparts argues that cleaning waterways requires a combination of new technology, preventative measures and changing people’s attitudes towards littering and not a one-size-fits-all solution.