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The autonomous aquatic Cleaning Drone cleans up harmful plastic waste

Published 8 Jul 2022 (updated 30 May 2024) · 3 min read

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At a glance

  • Autonomous aquatic drone collects marine plastic
  • Prevents inflow of plastic waste to the open ocean
  • Reduces environmental impact of plastics while beautifying shorelines

The Cleaning Drone collects and stores marine plastic waste along waterfronts, preventing the inflow of harmful plastic to the open ocean. “Our goal is to create clean water zones near the shore,” says Per Elvestuen, co-founder and CEO of Clean Sea Solutions. “It’s exciting to know our technologies will have a significant impact on a global problem and that we are part of the solution.”

Marine pollution is the fastest growing environmental problem in the world, according to the UN. Approximately 10 to 20 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, equivalent to a truckload each minute. Up to 94 per cent of the plastic waste entering the ocean sinks to the seabed, breaking down into toxic microplastics that threaten marine life. This is why it is crucial to prevent the inflow of plastic waste from coastal waters before it reaches the open ocean.

Unmanned service vehicle collects plastic waste near the shore

The Cleaning Drone V1 (CDV1) is an all-electric, unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that removes marine plastic waste on and just below the water surface in ports, canals, estuaries and other aquatic environments. It is particularly suitable for cleaning up plastic waste along quaysides and other areas that larger service vessels cannot reach.

The Cleaning Drone has a self-emptying system that deposits the collected plastic into a 62-litre waste receptacle. Fully autonomous, the drone is controlled via a vehicle control station or mobile app, reducing person-hours and labour costs.

The 55 kg Cleaning Drone is powered completely by electricity, keeping the drone’s own carbon footprint minimal. It also has an effective run time of 20 hours before the batteries need recharging.

In addition, the drone can be equipped with sensors for mapping the seabed and surrounding environment.

autonomous aquatic Cleaning Drone

The Cleaning Drone saves marine wildlife from ingesting plastic

The Cleaning Drone promotes a healthier marine environment by stopping plastic waste from reaching the open ocean.

“Less plastic pollution mitigates the problem of seabirds, fish, whales and turtles mistaking plastic items for prey. It also reduces the amount of toxic microplastics that accumulate in the food chain and cause developmental, reproductive and neurological problems in humans and wildlife,” says Elvestuen.

Moreover, the Cleaning Drone reduces greenhouse gases from plastic pollution, as polyethylene emits both methane and ethylene gas when exposed to UV radiation. A recent study showed that the Cleaning Drone can save some 155 000 metric tons of CO₂ equivalents per year from the plastic waste it collects.

The Cleaning Drone also enhances the aesthetic value of tourist destinations and beaches by keeping waterfronts free of unsightly waste.

Drone gives customers a competitive advantage

In Western countries, marine waste management is becoming an integral part of national, regional and development policy. Demand for automated waste collection is growing, particularly in the Mediterranean region where significant resources have been allocated to France, Spain and Italy through the Mediterranean Action Plan. The market is expected to increase to 10.2 per cent by 2024, compared to 8 per cent in 2018.

Clean Sea Solutions delivered the first Cleaning Drone to its pilot customer, the Port of Oslo, in June 2021. The company is now poised to expand into the Mediterranean countries and beyond. Clean Sea Solutions’ customers include cities and municipalities, harbours, marinas, hotels and waterfront urban developers.

“The clean water zones we create will enhance the customer’s environmental profile and give them a competitive advantage by showing they take the marine waste problem seriously. We are convinced this will generate more revenue for our customers because they will become preferred actors in the marketplace,” explains Elvestuen.

Clean Sea Solutions also delivers a complementary solution called the Aquapod, a modular floating jetty with an integrated system for collecting and storing marine plastic waste. Like the Cleaning Drone, the Aquapod can stand alone or be part of a more comprehensive clean water zone solution.

The Cleaning Drone has been developed in collaboration with Maritime Robotics.

Catharina Frostad


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