A swarm of autonomous robots that can swim across bodies of water to collect garbage might be the key to saving the oceans.

A few years ago, RanMarine Technology, a company from the Netherlands, has introduced WasteShark, an aquadrone that works like a smart vacuum cleaner (essentially, a Roomba for the seas) to gather wastes that end up in waterways before they accumulate into a great big patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Wall-E On Water

Every year, about 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in the ocean. Plastics, styrofoam, and other nonbiodegradable materials get dumped into the waters, eaten by fishes and birds or collect into what has become the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a gyre of debris between California and Hawaii bigger than Alaska.

Trash in seas and oceans have become a huge problem, but the WasteShark might be able to help.

RanMarine said that its aquadrones are inspired by whale sharks, "nature's most efficient harvesters of marine biomass." The company claims that the vessels can collect up to 200 liters of waste before it needs to be emptied and swim across the water for 16 hours.

The WasteShark are autonomous as it can intelligently wade through water and collect trash using sensors. It is equipped with a GPS to track its movements.

These little trash collectors, dubbed by RanMarine CEO Richard Hardiman as "Wall-E of water," also has the capacity to collect data to determine the quality of water.

"With a smart vacuum cleaner, the aim is to sweep up dust the whole time so you never have to see it," explained Hardiman to Digital Trends in 2016. "With these drones, the idea is that they constantly clean up the water so you never see a buildup of waste. The more you do that, the less waste sinks to the bottom and ultimately gets swept out into the ocean."

RanMarine Technology already did a test run for its WasteSharks in the Port of Rotterdam and Dordrecht in the Netherlands.

Cleaning The Oceans

The WasteShark joins several other ventures that aim to collect the wastes that end up in bodies of water. Ocean Cleanup, a project from young inventor Boyan Slat, will send out 600-meter booms that will collect trash from the oceans later this year. The Huffington Post reports that the project can clean up the Great Pacific Patch within just five years.

Watch WasteShark in action below.


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