A new underwater drone concept could seek and destroy one of the ocean's most insidious enemies, while earning a profit for plastics recyclers. This marine drone can siphon plastic garbage, swallowing bits of trash in a gaping maw rivaling that of a whale shark.
Industrial design student Elie Ahovi, who previously brought us the Orbit clothes washer concept, now presents the Marine Drone, an autonomous electric vehicle that tows a plastic-trapping net. The net is surrounded by a circular buoy to balance the weight of the garbage it collects. It discourages fish and other creatures from entering its jaws via an annoying sonic transmitter, and it communicates with other drones and with its base station using sonar.
The system could stay underwater for two weeks, sipping tiny plastic shards and entire plastic bottles. As its batteries drain, it can return to an ocean base, where human crews will haul it up and empty the plastic for recycling. The project is a response to a challenge from France-based environmental services firm Veolia, which asked students to come up with ways to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Ahovi, Adrien Lefebvre and fellow students developed several schematics, including a concept that looks much like a whale shark. The main iteration is more cylindrical.
Along with cleaning the oceans, the trash drone could yield profits for companies seeking to reduce petroleum use and recycle plastics, Ahovi says. Unless someone builds an island out of the Pacific patch, this cleanup concept could be a real solution.
I like this, a clever concept that should work. Get the plastic up and use it to get even non-plastic trash out of the oceans.
Could it have a use for S&R? Send the drone out to pick up stranded boaters, have it swallow them like a modern day Jonah, and then bring them to safety?
Of course, a fishing company might use it just like a whale shark, just remove the sonic transmitter and boom! cheap fishing crisis.
Not that the strip-miners of the sea truly NEED a better way...
My knee jerk response, oh yea clean the oceans and it is profitable for someone, the more likely it will happen. Hurray!
Now I am curious too, how does this device know the difference between plastic and marine life as it gathers trash?
They just said, it makes marine life avoid it with sonic fields, kind of like with a microphone when some one makes it do that freaky whine. It makes everyone cover their ears and lean back. Fish can't cover their ears, but they can avoid this thing.
You are MOST correct. I guess I need to get my electronic optics and return and upgrade some of my positronic synthetic circuits in reading comprehension.
"...It discourages fish and other creatures from entering its jaws via an annoying sonic transmitter,.."
Why the binary? I never learned to read it...
And why do you keep changing the picture?!?!?!? Your first was better.
Finally a REAL man-made environmental disaster. I can’t believe we have an Island the size of texas swimming in the Pacific. The Gulf streams dumps all the ocean trash in this heap. Its quite disgusting, and poisoning all life in the area. Finally someone is pitching an idea. But of course, it won’t be launched unless it makes money.
This is a real problem (unlike man made climate change ) that needs to be tackled now.
the binary says: "I appreciate you comments. Thank you."
The binary is me, being a robot. I will translate the binary for you sir, "I appreciate your comments. Thank you." And I have a large variety of robot icons as in the reality of a robot, they are wide in design.
Considering the magintude of this problem, I find it so odd this is the first real proposal at an attempt to solve it. Otherwise if the plastic pollution overall is left alone WILL destroy the oceans and its marine life. Once the oceans go, so goes the rest of the planet...... in my opinion.
I propose they go one step further...
Use the plastic that they collect.
Shred it up into a fine powder
Heat it up, and extrude it into a reel form
Print more of these drones
Use the current, wind, or Otec generators to power the floating print station (should not require all that much energy).
Once per month, a technician would need to go out there, and insert the electronics in the drones (could be done very cheaply, if all they had to do was plug in a microcontroller, sensors, and servo motors).
Self replicating clean up robots : )
I don't believe this concept would work in the real world, for a number of reasons.
1- It was stated that this could stay out weeks at a time then return and recharge and dump its load. Well... I highly doubt there is nearly enough battery power in this thing to haul it and half a load of trash around for even days, much less weeks. It takes a whole lot of energy to propel a large craft through the ocean, especially one so lacking in hydrodynamics as this would. And if battery life is really only a few days rather than weeks, it will spend 95% of its time traveling back and forth to its base station, and 5% looking for trash.
2- This won't pick up much. Unlike what most people imagine, the great garbage patch is not even visible with satellite photography, because virtually all of it is made up of plastic particles so small they are almost invisible to the naked eye. In most cases, you could be sailing right through it and never have a clue. What's more, the average density of the patch has been estimated at about 5.1 kg of plastic for every square kilometer of ocean. So I'm not sure how effective a 3m diameter robot is going to be in picking up insanely tiny particles in a huge area.
3- Even for those few relatively small areas where trash is visibly large and near enough to the surface to be reached, is a fleet of these things really any cheaper or more effective than just sending some large ships out there to do the same work manually?
As well-intentioned as the designer was, I have to wonder if he actually had a clue what this "garbage patch" is that he's trying to clean up. Most of us could be swimming in it and never even have a clue that we are in it most of the time.
I do the binary\robotic speaking language thingy to be nerdy and for a little fun, once in a while. But to just let you know, the PoPSCi editors frown on this, so lets not do it to much.
And to answer your binary question, I do tinker in many different robotic\electronic\computer projects all the time for fun.
Good intentions but still a Fail.
1) Plastic in the sea? Are plastic bottles really floating every 6 feet like golf balls on a driving range?
2) I would think for every 1 perfectly sized piece of plastic this thing would come across, you would have tons and tons of floating seaweed, logs, and dead-rotting sealife. Now dragging that back to shore and paying for a crew to unload, clean, untangle, recharge, and maintain this thing that is continually working in sea water, even if it were picking up gold, I can't see it finacially sustaining itself.
3) Dragging a house sized net full of rotting sea-dead would attract every bird, scavanger, and shark to rip away and feed on this plastic-riddled sea-pinata, killing more fish with it's food/plastic buffet. Even if you could send out a blaring sound wave through an intense sonar gun, lets step back and really see if we are helping the planet with hundreds of noise polluting and fish baiting drive-by trash-bots?
This reminds me of another great idea well meaning environmentalists had to help fish. They rushed to pull out every log in the rivers to let the salmon run free without obsticles, taking out their shade, lodging, and food supplies, they were responsible for more fish deaths than the loggers. Let's think before we help.
did i call this or what?
to mars or bust!
Besides which, the greatly overlooked fact is that less than 2% of collected plastic are actually recycled. Mostly they are used in Non-recyclable products which does NOT decrease the need to produce MORE virgin plastic. So by all means, clean up the oceans. That's the least we can do, but what really needs to be done is to come up with a way to ACTUALLY recycle these plastics, or invent a way to convert them into something that IS recyclable. Problem is, it never goes away and one way or another will eventually end up back in landfills or waterways. Here's a link for those who are interested in the facts.
Here's an idea. Make the manufacturer or distributor of the never-go-away containers responsible for them just like we do, or are supposed to do, with oil companies. Oil in the ocean? Clean it up and pay up! Plastic in the ocean, clean it up and pay up! Better yet, don't let it get there in the first place. If somebody invented a process that made recycled plastics worth something, you can bet they would disappear from our streets, waterways, oceans, parks and landfills. Make it worth something, then worry about collecting it.
Isn't this the equivalent of trying to move a mountain with a spoon?
To claim it will be profitable is laughable. Profitable means it makes more money than it takes to operate. Considering recycled plastic cost nothing, and most of it you can't give away, what magic are they going to employ to make this thing create value where none previously existed. The fuel cost for the boat to come pick up the collected plastic, will cost 500 times what it could make. Maybe you can make it print money with all the plastic it collects, but that would still not make enough to even offset a small percentage of the cost.
i really need to learn binary...
Life's no fun in human speech...
This idea would never work financially. Building and operating the ship and drones would cost far more than that recouped from the value of the recovered trash.
There is also the big problem of separating sea critters and plants from the trash. The critters tend to congregate around anything floating in the open ocean such as plastic or driftwood.
Lastly, I have not seen real evidence that these floating ocean garbage patches are as large as some claim.
@riff-raff: It is a financial challenge for sure. But because it is it does not mean that you can't make it financially work. I like this concept which aims for the debris drifting below the water line in the water column. The student team worked one year on that.
I did some trial calculations about the costs. It is possible to reduce it if service intervals, bunker size and amount of service-people is in good balance.
Perhaps it is not good habbit to do advertisement with own pojects but I would be lucky if creative people would like to join forces to proceed in working on a solution. Check out the trial which I did two years ago. http://www.ralphschneider.de/about/projects/floating-horizon-marine-litter/
But I would not claim that I am there yet. So I would be happy to join forces.
It is true we do not know exactly how much is out there the best numbers are from SCRIBBS and Algalita. 5Gyres are also doing some measures. And in europe we have several institutes making the measure.
For the cost, from my understanding it is not a business model to collect the waste and try to do something with it to create profit at the end. Nevertheless trying to recycle it in an energy efficient, low footprint way is worth a trial.
Main aim or benefit is the reduction of the damage waste is causing to sealife. I do not know if an insurance company has calculated the death of sea birds, turtles etc.
To avoid that the wrong waste reaches our waterways is more effective than trying to get it out again. But from my point of view development of tools for offshore waste recovery is still a good thing.
@D13 creativity is king. :)
do you know the Pelagic Pod project? Sounds similar to your idea. But yes, it needs to be a totaly simple solution. www.facebook.com/pages/Pelagic-Pod-The-Pacific-Garbage-Patch-Solution/157480751386 AND www.Abundantseas.org/pod_project
The other thing that is happening is WASTE FREE OCEAN in europe. The try a pragmatic way to clean near shore area.
Worked on a team researching a similar project:
Check this out if interested; we completed about 9 months of research as HS students and were quite proud and confident in our solution. This problem is extremely difficult and we may not be the a "solve-all", but its worth a look if you're interested.
Hi xaivery seduq. Interesting concept. I like it. AM I allowed to use it as a good example on a future Webpage. One element I do is that I collect and compare created concepts and to see how far they were and what benefits vs. hurdles were seen. perhaps you can drop me a line if you or the tutor behind it would like to do so. info[at]ralphschneider[dot]de
Plastic also absorbs environmental toxins like PCBs, dioxins, and BPA, which means cleaning it up is of great benefit... but this machine doesn't seem designed to address the largest problem with this plastic, which is that the pieces break down and become very very small. Unfortunately this does not make them less of a problem -- we have bits of plastic floating about that are so small that they become incorporated into the very cells of sea life, along with their toxic load.
This is a well-known aspect of the problem among scientists, and I wish PopSci had seen fit to address it. But even if this machine only cleans up larger pieces, it's still potentially of great benefit. The number of sea creatures who die of starvation because their bellies are filled with undigestible plastic continues to accelerate, and we cannot afford those losses to the biosphere if we hope to have a liveable planet.