Waste Shark Aims To Clean Our Harbours And Oceans

Drones are adding functionality to our everyday lives, and automation is here to help humanity whether we’re ready for it or not. In a clever combination of the two, [Richard Hardiman] of RanMarine has developed small drone-boats that scoop up garbage from the ocean — he calls them ‘Waste Sharks.’

The two models — slim and fatboy — aim to collect up to 1,100 pounds of garbage apiece in the ‘mouths’ just below the water’s surface. The Waste Sharks are still restricted to remote control and are only autonomous when traveling between waypoints, but one can see how this technology could evolve into the “Wall-E of water.”


Before tackling the task of cleaning the world’s oceans — namely the great pacific garbage patch — [Hardiman] aims to first tidy up the ports, waterways and canals of our cities. So, Waste Shark is presently being tested until the end of the year cleaning up the Port of Rotterdam.

If you think cleaning the ocean is a faraway goal, then what do you think of autonomously circumnavigating the globe? Or perhaps a swarm of drone boats to do your bidding?

[via Popular Science]

43 thoughts on “Waste Shark Aims To Clean Our Harbours And Oceans

  1. These are interesting however I they probably need to be used in tandem with a much larger automated system that was in charge of retrieving, emptying, charging and relaunching them. That is if they ever hope to make a dent :(

  2. I’m afraid this won’t happen at any worthwhile scale unless someone finds a way to monetize this. If you can get some fancy-pants designer to make lots and lots of shoes or apparel from recycled debris at a cost inflated enough to pay for this, maybe.

  3. This idea triggered a brainstorm for me. Here in America (specifically in my state Connecticut), we have reservoirs, lakes, swamps, and ponds, or watersheds, totally mucked up by ugly green algae plumes. Our watersheds look awful now compared to decades ago when they looked pristine. We don’t have many people dumping their garbage in our watersheds here. It’s illegal. But it does happen sometimes (but rarely).

    Algae, as it turns out, is a great alternative to fossil fuels for cars and trucks. Look at this US DoE report on the matter: http://energy.gov/eere/videos/energy-101-algae-fuel

    Well what if let’s say our state government (Gov. Dannel Malloy) tells his D.E.E.P. department to buy some of these “WASTE SHARKS” to harvest algae to be brought to a local algae refinery for fuel processing? It would create jobs, he could sell the algae to them, fuel his fleet of state government trucks and cars, and also clean up the environment possibly doing a small part against global warming (i.e. climate change).

    Sounds win-win to me…

    1. Here’s some pictures of the mess we have here in Connecticut. It’s called BLUE-GREEN ALGAE PLUMES. Turns out it is dangerous to humans and pets too. We would need a lot of WASTE SHARKS too. And after cleaning up a lake it will be back in a week or so, So at least it’s a sustainable project for algae-collection employees or much needed state jobs! :-)


      1. Why even send the sharks out to get it, though? Could you not put some stationary collectors in key spots? A pump and filter to pull water through and extract the algae, then dehydrate it and compact into a cube for storage and later retrieval. Fishing boat makes the rounds every week, empties the machines, and returns blocks of biomass for processing.

        1. @gregkennedy – Yes Greg that would work. However, in an effort to monetize the WASTE SHARK, we would need to focus on reducing capital expenditures like permanent stationary equipment that could ostensibly only get to the biomass (algae) near the shoreline skimmers (some lakes/ponds it extends to the middle). However the SHARKS would be mobile assets that could be deployed ANYWHERE at a moment’s notice. And knowing our Connecticut fuss-budgets citizens they would balk at ANYTHING new set up on their precious lakes that is ugly or even progressive in nature. They would call us “fascists” if we setup permanent skimmers on their lakefront property as it would mean more taxes to pay for it initially. We’d have to get eminent domain to take property for a brick & mortar operation. Don’t want to PAY for the land as that’s a capital expenditure too. More quasi-fascism? ( thanx Evad! :P )

          Just purchase a fleet of 50+ SHARKS. Use our pre-existing DoT fleet of trucks to transport the biomass to a state run crushing plant (recycling plant or contractor) to squish out the water and compress into cubes as you say. Tell the oil refineries HEY Connecticut has some biomass to sell!! They MAY beat a path to our door. I know Governor Malloy would like this idea as he is looking for ideas like this. CT is not all that popular right now due to some of Malloy’s recent activities in other areas. But he is a good Gov. He’d like this idea. I think I will devise a letter to him about this. Maybe others can too? I’ll supply his mailing address at the State Capitol building if anyone wants to do it too.

    2. Each plume represents excess nutrients.
      These nutrients largely come from poor fertilizer applications, Combine Sewer Overflow, and hard surface runoff.
      Rather than spend more energy trying to reclaim wasted energy (fertilizer after all comes from oil), encouraging efficiency in farming/landscaping is preferred. CSOs are falling out of fashion with huge fines possible from the EPA so that will solve its self in the near future & municipal methane digesters could further spur the end of CSOs as common practice.
      Which would be a boon for the shell fisheries in the area so they get more days in the season without worry of shellfish poisoning.
      Skimming rivers for algae isn’t worthwhile. The Connecticut river alone is 400 miles long, far too decentralized to recoup the energy expended in skimming it for algae.

      1. @Leithoa – I see nothing wrong with RECLAMATION projects. The US DoE has said that the algae is using CO2 already from our atmosphere hence it’s not adding to the carbon footprint. Even when it burns the released CO2 is the same CO2 so no additional carbon. I would not skim “rivers” as algae likes still water not moving water. Our river extends from Quebec CA border south to LI Sound 406 miles long. And I’ve never seen any algae plumes in it. I’ve seen OTHER stuff (man-made pollutants) in it though. Our lakes and ponds are more susceptible to algae plumes. Also the river current is too strong for a WASTE SHARK. Our man-made trash and sewage is washed away quickly to the sound.

        @notarealemail – I personally think algae is algae. George W. Bush was exploiting “ditch weed” for federal fleet bio-fuel diesel. That stuff was then banned for civilian use by GWB telling D.E.A. to interdict any harvesting of it commercially. Turns out ditch weed is a form of cannabis (aka marijuana sans THC). You can find it in your backyard if you see reeds and stuff in a wetland area. The DoE said in it’s video in my post above that a lot of plants can be harvested for bio-fuel. Algae is nothing more than a plant.

        @evad – No not in USA. Our governor has been taking (lay offs) STATE jobs recently, but any workable monetizable idea like this could create state government jobs as Waste Shark controllers, algae particulate matter collectors, loaders, truck drivers, and administrative jobs. I’m talking about GOVERNMENT jobs not commercial/mercantile jobs. Here in CT we have a gas tax problem. He wants to reduce it but probably can’t. This idea would allow him to defray fuel costs for the state government fleet. Also this stuff could be used for jets too. He could sell it to our airports authorities. And we have a huge fleet of DoT trucks and vehicles bio-diesel could be used. We have a crap-load of state cars too. It MIGHT well lower taxes as it would be self-funding.

        What’s that “fascist” crack about? When have I ever come off like that???

    3. Government doesn’t create jobs.

      Government is only capable of taking.

      You are asking for a tax, one that everyone is forced to pay. Why not take your idea to kickstarter instead of using force, you fascist!

  4. Given that it’s only capable of catching floating (self-buoyant) garbage, its collection capability is effectively infinite since it doesn’t have to balance the downward force of the garbage’s weight with buoyancy. Beyond that their capacity estimation is a mystery since the size of the basket would be roughly big enough to hold 1100 lbs of concrete at the standard weight of 150 lbs/ft³. I don’t think that’s what they intended.

    Two in tandem with a net spread between them would be much more effective, and I’ll let the other sailors on HAD argue about the navigation hazards this creates.

      1. @Leithoa – This reminds me of the public reservoir sentry robot autonomous boats. They just swim around the rez looking for suspicious activity and continually take water samples to send back to op-center electronically. I think it was/is a DARPA project. We could use them here in CT as our state police caught a gentleman of Arabic persuasion dumping something white in color in one of our larger rez’s. Turns out it was only trash…


  5. So what happens to the trash? I didn’t see any collection device – it doesn’t just magically disappear. I guess the inventors wouldn’t want to show the ugly side of the invention – the actual trash!

  6. It seems as practical as robot vegetable gardening, cute, but not widely applicable. You’d have as much impact teaching turtles to regurgitate and speaking of sharks it would probably get eaten by them, or have chucks bitten out of it.

    1. I think for small areas (marinas, harbors) it’s a workable idea. As to whether it’s effective, we’ll know at the end of the year. Obviously turning these loose in the open ocean has a host of logistical & technological issues. These aren’t going to be skimming gyres any time soon but they may help keep a few locations from adding to the problem.

      Obviously, not throwing trash into the water in the first place is the best solution.

  7. I think they need to be self-reproducing and turned loose :-) One potential problem is that the most important plankton and fish fry that depend on them after birth/hatch are in the first few inches of water.

  8. Interesting but lacking practicality. It seems to have very limited ‘trash-storage’. Most trash does not float, this boat is only skimming the surface. I want one that’s able to remove bike wracks and truly filter the water from harmful materials (atomic scale).

    The port of Rotterdam is likely being cleaned daily by a maned crew. I’ve observed similar operations in the channels of Utrecht. I was amazed with the amount of bikes they pull out of the water.

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