Chomping Down on Trash: WasteShark Collects Marine Debris

From chip bags and soda cans to candy wrappers and water bottles, litter intentionally or unintentionally makes its way into our nation’s waterways. However, a new tool, the WasteShark, is helping to collect marine debris that can cause detrimental effects on the environment, wildlife and human health. This low environmental impact platform can be made to function autonomously for deploying water quality, sonar and other data sensing technologies. KCI is working with Rotterdam, Netherlands-based RanMarine Technology to introduce the aqua drone to new and existing clients in the United States.

Through KCI’s involvement with the Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Committee, a non-profit organization that promotes cooperation, mutual understanding and friendship between the citizens in both cities, our engineers learned about the WasteShark and its ability to efficiently clean up marine waste in various environments. Working with RanMarine Technology, our team thoroughly tested the drone, evaluated its capabilities and potential applications, and is now conducting demonstrations for clients and technical collaborators. Designed to help reduce the amount of the trash that drifts into the ocean, the WasteShark is ideal for ports, marinas, rural waterways and urban environments.

In addition to picking up trash, the aqua drone is also capable of clearing unwanted vegetation, filtering chemicals and gathering marine data.

The drone is modeled after and operates under the same principles as a whale shark, a filter feeding fish who swims slowly with its mouth open sucking in plankton and fish. Extending no deeper than a foot beneath the surface, the device glides smoothly through the water with minimal turbulence, collecting plastics and other trash in its catch basin and then brings them to shore to be disposed of or recycled. Intended to help reduce the amount of pollution that makes its way into our oceans, the WasteShark is ideal for removing accumulations of floating debris in protected inland waters like marinas and port facilities.

Instead of deploying nets or larger vessels to collect unwanted plastics and biodegradables, the drone provides an efficient, safe and inexpensive alternative for cleaning up urban, rural, industrial and leisure environments. The WasteShark can be launched from shore by one or two operators. Its agile design and maneuverability allows it to enter hard-to-reach spaces, turn on the spot and easily navigate in waterway traffic and between boats. Enclosed plastic blades, a non-abrasive hull and a rubber rim on the outer edge help to eliminate dangers to any vessels or structures that could come into contact with the machine.

The device’s small size allows it to easily fit between boats, docks and barges and collect marine waste in hard to reach spaces.

Depending on the task at hand, the device can be operated in different modes. It can be driven manually by an operator using handheld controls or set to autopilot. The operator also has the ability to use a handheld touchscreen to map out an area for the WasteShark to roam or set up a specific path for the drone to follow. Using GPS and set points, autopilot mode also allows the operator to identify areas to avoid. The machine’s return to home function is triggered if the device swims outside of signal range, about a half mile away.

The WasteShark can run continuously for five to eight hours depending on the water conditions and the amount of waste collected. Able to carry more than 90 gallons of trash with a buoyancy of nearly 900 pounds, once filled, the drone brings the garbage to a collection point, where operators can empty the basin. By introducing the WasteShark to more marinas, port authorities, municipalities and other private entities and businesses, the technology can quickly become a helpful tool in the elimination of marine debris.