SeaClear devices will remove debris from the seafloor on the European coast

European researchers have presented a remote-controlled SeaClear system for collecting garbage from the seafloor. It consists of an aerial drone, two underwater vehicles for searching and capturing debris, and a base vessel with an onboard computer that provides power and information processing for the system. In the spring, this system was already used in the port of Hamburg and on the coast of Dubrovnik. The tests are described by the new Atlas portal.

A significant part of the garbage that enters The world's oceans settles on the bottom due to its weight, as well as the processes of aggregation, biofouling and ingestion by living organisms. To search for debris spots on the sea surface, scientists have already developed an automated search for satellite images, and to eliminate them, the Ocean Cleanup project has already released several booms into the ocean. Collecting garbage on the ocean floor is much more difficult, and progress in this area is still small.

In 2020, European researchers together with engineers from the Technical University of Munich launched the SeaClear project, which is aimed at automated garbage collection from the ocean floor. The basic system consists of four robotic devices: an aerial drone, an unmanned ship and two underwater remotely controlled vehicles. An aerial drone and the first underwater vehicle will search for debris on the surface of the water and in its thickness. If debris is present in these layers, it will probably also end up at the bottom, where a second underwater vehicle will go, equipped with devices for capturing and sucking up debris. The drone and the first device can distinguish garbage from marine animals automatically, and the second device will be able to recognize it among corals and algae: for this purpose, computer vision algorithms will be used. The ship will supply power to the underwater vehicles, as well as process the data transmitted by them on the onboard computer.

Base ship of the SeaClear system / SeaClear
Seaclear underwater remotely controlled vehicle system / SeaClear

It is important not only to collect garbage on the ocean floor but also to reduce its flow from land to the world's oceans. Recently, British students have created a device that captures 60 per cent of microplastic particles that fly off car tires while driving. Also this year, scientists calculated that river barriers, which are planned to be installed in the mouths of rivers as part of the Ocean Cleanup project, will be able to hold 462,000 tons of plastic before it reaches the seas by 2150.


Photo: Technical University of Munich

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