Urban trash is piling up, and not just on the pavements. Numerous riverine cities face the challenge of keeping their waters clean – to facilitate waterborne taxi services, meet environmental regulations and convince tourists they’re not visiting a glorified garbage dump. However, riverine trash removal necessitates much time, cost and effort on behalf of clean-up crews.
Step forward RanMarine, the Rotterdam-based developer of the WasteShark, an all-electric, floating trash clearance bot. Eugene van Eck, account manager at Ranmarine, tells Ship & Boat International: “We developed the WasteShark to act as an ‘at source’ solution, capturing waste before it leaves harbours, canals and waterways and enters and pollutes the greater sea and ocean.” There could also be scope for the WasteShark to assist with post-flooding relief efforts.
At present, the WasteShark comprises a 1.56m-long unit designed to clear plastics and microplastics, oil and chemicals, invasive plants (such as algae and water hyacinth) and invasive species such as jellyfish, as well as more general trash. The WasteShark is available in two configurations: the remote-operated Class M and the autonomous Class A, permitting customers to choose whether they guide the bot from the shore or put it on a pre-determined route and leave it to get on with its work independently.
The WasteShark runs purely on battery power. “We use a lithium-ion-phosphate chemical combination, which gives us an eight-hour charge with a ‘refuel’ time of 1.5 hours,” says van Eck. “In a given 24-hour period, we can thus operate for 16 hours.” Deploying the bot five days a week could lead to an annual trash clearance rate of 15tonnes, RanMarine estimates. The battery also permits a speed of 3knots, though, van Eck explains, “we have the capacity to extend this up to 6knots”.
Additionally, the WasteShark features a built-in collision avoidance system, to prevent it from ploughing into marine mammals and/or other river users. At the same time, van Eck explains, the drone is currently “blind/agnostic” to what ‘rubbish’ it retrieves in autonomous mode – for example, it is not yet capable of distinguishing between a duckling and a plastic bottle. “We've started an image recognition database with a few of our partners, to establish a ‘seeing eye’ for waste in the water,” van Eck reveals. “One of the chief problems is that waste, both man-made and biowaste, does not separate itself in water, but rather gathers and clumps together. What we are able to do is set the WasteShark on a path that ensures it enters areas with known ‘trash chokeholds’. By making sure a path is set in these areas, we can focus the unit’s attention on problem areas, rather than just allowing it to ‘roam’ to collect incidental trash.”
The WasteShark’s rubbish collection tank has an internal capacity of 160litres, and its catchment basket has holes to maximise waterflow internally and regulate its buoyancy. “While the WasteShark has a buoyancy of 400kg, and won’t sink unless a load of more than 400kg is applied, it is capable of moving 350-400kg of trash back to shore, depending on the weight of its catch internally," van Eck says.
The bot can be ordered with accessories, such as the DataFin package – which, when installed on the WasteShark, can gather data from its operational zone, for further analysis. This could include info related to water quality and the presence of any toxins or heavy metals, or even a ‘head count’ of birds in a particular location.