WasteShark snaps up plastic waste in Ilfracombe Harbour

WasteShark snaps up plastic waste in Ilfracombe Harbour

March 4, 2019
Lloyd Fuller

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Sky have launched the UK’s first WasteShark – an autonomous marine robot that detects and gathers-up plastic waste from the biosphere

To help clear Ilfracombe’s harbor from floating waste, including plastics and microplastics, the WWF and Sky have deployed a WasteShark ‘aquadrone’, manufactured by the Netherlands-based company RanMarine Technology. Designed for waste collection for up to eight hours a time before requiring a recharge, this fishy-looking marine robot takes inspiration from one of nature’s most efficient harvesters of marine biomass, the whale shark. Albeit there’s a bit more technology on board than its namesake: it can scan and monitor the environment, detect waste, chemicals and even intrusive vegetation and remove it – it can even send valuable data (such as about water quality) back to researchers for further analysis. Emission-free and completely harmless to marine life, it can also hold up to 60kg of debris before having to return to a collection area to be processed.

This latest deployment in this small town in North Devon, UK, follows successful testing in the port of Rotterdam, as well as real-world missions in Cape Town, South Africa, Baltimore, USA, and more recently in the marina in Dubai (UAE). The WasteShark can be steered manually via remote control or through a plotted map on an iPad. Its inventors say it is best suited for harbors, rivers and canals – so-called ‘waste chokeholds’ that RanMarine has identified based on weather patterns, shipping and wind movements, as well as tides.

The bad news for the world’s polluted oceans and the much-publicized gyres awash with plastic waste is that RanMarine doesn’t have plans to take the innovation out into the open water. The good news, though, is that by vacuuming up waste at ports and harbors, the company believes it can stop plastic pollution at the source, wiping out floating debris before it drifts down into the oceans.

Moreover, if deployed five days a week for its 16-hour daily capacity, WasteShark’s inventors say one drone could potentially clear 15.6 tonnes of waste from waterways every year.

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 is taking place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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