Ocean Clean Up Efforts Go High Tech

December 17, 2019

The world’s oceans are in need of a garbage and oil cleanup. IIoT and drones are here to help.

IoT Attacks Garbage at Every Depth

The WasteShark, a Roomba-like drone, sucks up garbage as it skims the water. With the aid of sensors, it also gathers data on water quality, such as pH levels, ammonium, chloride, nitrate, and others chemical levels. Though it can’t handle the open ocean, the drone’s ability to clean harbors, rivers and canals can clear local trash and keep it from entering the ocean in the first place.

For garbage that has fallen to the ocean floor, “Hector the Collector” collects trash with the aid of sonar imaging. The robot can travel depths humans can’t due to too much pressure, cold and the lack of light. The robot also collects data on where it gathers trash and how far it traveled.

In Germany, university researchers are using satellite trackers and floating buoys to track the movement of ocean trash. The research helps in understanding how and where ocean garbage travels. This, in turn, aids in developing further regulations to cut down on ocean pollution. The data gathered can also be used to alert cleanup operations when trash drifts to shore.

When it comes to shoreline cleanup, an algorithm is being developed in Britain to teach drones how to spot plastic garbage on beaches. Once complete, a drone will be able to survey an area and report back the amount of trash and its location. It’s possible the same algorithm could be used with satellites, enabling the detection of plastic trash around the world. This would aid global cleanup efforts and help identify where trash is flowing from.

Technology to Combat Oil Spills

In Norway, two companies are combining their IIoT expertise to better detect oil spills and aid cleanup efforts. Sensors are used to alert offshore oil rigs, port authorities and ship owners when a leak occurs. Hyperspectral imaging is employed to detect the size and location of the spill, as well as the type of oil. The data is then sent to cleanup crews, which they can use to create strategies before arriving on scene.

One sailing drone has been in development to clean up oil spills by dragging an absorbent tail. It could also be fitted with a dragging net to gather garbage. Equipped with sensors, the drone can collect data on pollutants and the size and location of a spill or garbage patch.