Open Ocean Engineering has developed Clearbot Neo– a sleek AI-enabled robotic boat that autonomously collects tons of floating garbage that otherwise would wash into the Pacific from the territory’s busy harbor.
After a long developmental phase, its creators are planning to scale up and have fleets of Clearbot Neos cleaning up and protecting waters around the globe.
The United Nations estimates that as much as 95% of plastic pollution in the world’s seas gets there via 10 major rivers, eight of which are in Asia.
And there are fears that the volume of plastic trash flowing into marine environments could nearly triple by 2040, adding 23 to 37 million metric tons into the oceans per year. That would be equivalent to about 50 kgs of plastic garbage per meter of coastline worldwide.
“If we clean up our rivers and harbors, we are helping to clean up our oceans,
” says Clearbot Neo’s co-creator Sidhant Gupta.
At just three meters long and pushed along by a solar battery-powered electric motor, the Clearbot Neo systematically moves up and down designated sections of water – much like how a household robot cleaner moves across a living room floor.
Unlike other and much larger marine trash collection solutions that are tackling pollution on the high seas, the compact nature of the Clearbot Neo makes it ideal for harbor, canal and river use.
It skims the surface and scoops up floating trash onto an on-board conveyer belt fitted near its bow between its dual hulls and into a holding bin near its stern.
How Does Clearbot Neo Work?
Clearbot Neo uses AI to recognize and log the types of trash it collects and were.
It can bring in as much as a metric ton of refuse per day for recycling or disposal. And when fitted with a bespoke boom, it can tackle localized oil and fuel spills by collecting up to 15 liters of pollutant a day.
But this is more than just a simple clean-up machine. It also collects masses of data in the cloud using a two-camera detection system.
One camera surveys the water’s surface so the bot can identify rubbish and avoid marine life, navigational hazards and other vessels – making it safe and versatile for river and harbor work.
The second camera photographs each piece of trash that lands on the conveyor belt and transmits its image and GPS location to the company’s data compliance system, which is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform.
When this data is put together with variables, like sea current and tide information, environmentalists and marine authorities have a head start on identifying the sources of the trash. Water quality data is also fed into the cloud.
So far, the Clearbot Neo has been operating only in Hong Kong waters. Several potential customers in other countries have contacted Gupta and Goel, however, expansion has been temporarily hampered by pandemic travel restrictions.Source: Microsoft