Published 1 year ago.
About a 4 minute read.
RanMarine has created the world’s first autonomous marine robot. Utilizing drone technology, it can collect up to 500 kg of plastic waste and destructive biomass each day, harmoniously clearing up and monitoring our waters.
As WH Auden once
said, “Thousands have
lived without love, not one without water.” Vital to all life on earth, our
biosphere and everything living upon it would perish without it.
Despite water's importance and our dependence on it, our continued pollution of
it is putting this crucial resource at risk — our oceans are plagued by
to the tune of approximately 5.2 trillion macro and micro pieces, killing 1
million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals each
toxic algal blooms are becoming more frequent and deadly, with 400 marine dead
and contaminated water is killing an estimated 1.2 million people each
In an attempt to address the severity of the situation, Dutch tech startup
RanMarine is on a mission to restore the marine
environment to its natural state by cleaning up our waters. It has developed the
world's first marine robot specifically designed to eat marine waste and collect
data on our polluted waterways. Inspired by the way in which whale sharks suck
in food and filter out water, the company’s
WasteShark autonomous surface
vessel (ASV) is “taking a bite out of water pollution.”
The zero-emission WasteSharks use drone technology to vacuum up plastic waste
and biomass. Each one can collect up to 500 kg of waste per day, with a battery
capacity of 8 hours on one charge. They’re designed to be efficient, unobtrusive
and harmonious with the environment.
“We are particularly proud of the fact that zero carbon is emitted while using
the WasteShark,” RanMarine founder and CEO Richard
Sustainable Brands®. “With batteries that can be charged from the local
grid or powered by solar storage systems, the WasteShark leaves no oil slicks,
emits no toxic fumes and is unobtrusive on the water. These attributes ensure
that it is the perfect solution for working in environments where wildlife is
present — it allows you to safely collect harmful biomass and waste remotely
from the shore or quayside.”
The WasteSharks’ operational routes are predetermined by the user. They carry
out these routes via GPS navigation and can return home at the end of their
‘shift.’ The manual WasteSharks are essentially drones that travel through
water, rather than air. They use the same technology and camera systems as a
typical flying drone — including a hand-held controller. The automated drones,
on the other hand, use ROS software to manage the complexity of being autonomous
and having to “think for themselves” whilst deployed.
“Although a mission plan is set out by the user on our web portal,
RanMarineConnect, the Sharks have to be able to navigate and avoid obstacles
that may not have been there at the time of planning; typically these include
moving boats, moored vessels or unplanned obstacles,” Hardiman explains. “Here,
we use our own internal software to navigate the drone safely to make sure the
WasteShark can still do its job without endangering or colliding with other
Data collected from the WasteSharks is geo-tagged and time-stamped, providing an
accurate picture of the water quality health within an area. This representation
helps verify compliance with pollution regulations, identifies potential
contaminants early to minimize the impact on the environment and creates cleaner
“The aquatic drones can also be configured with different sensors to help
monitor temperature; depth; dissolved oxygen; turbidity; blue-green algae;
crude, refined oils and more. Any data collected is immediately available for
reporting and analysis through the WasteShark Data Portal,” Hardiman says.
The RanMarineConnect portal allows clients to upload collected data for their
own research and analysis. In the future, the RanMarine team is hoping to
develop a data-sharing platform between users; but this is still at a conceptual
More than 40 WasteSharks have been deployed across the globe — including in
Denmark, Singapore, the UK, US, Australia and South
Korea. Some of WasteShark’s clients include well-known theme parks in
Orlando; the Port of Houston, Texas; and United Nations projects in
Hardiman says RanMarine will launch a larger WasteShark in the next six months
that is capable of removing 1 ton of waste in a single load; he anticipates it
being commercially available by the end of the year.
“We are also developing a docking station which houses up to 5 WasteSharks at a
time, empties their baskets automatically and recharges them," he added, "making it a total
autonomous solution where humans are only required for oversight.”
Published Oct 28, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Scarlett Buckley is a London-based freelance sustainability writer with an MSc in Creative Arts & Mental Health.