SeaClear project: robot and AI for the ocean’s cleaning

robot litter collection researchThe Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML develops and optimizes processes and systems along the maritime supply chain. One of its latest research project aims to clean the oceans with the help of robots and artificial intelligence.

SeaClear fights marine pollution

Today‘s oceans contain many millions of tons of waste, of which more than 90% is found on the sea floor. So far, efforts to collect the waste are mainly concentrated on surface waste, with only a few local efforts to gather underwater waste, always involving human divers.

But now a consortium of 8 European partners from Croatia, Germany, The Netherlands and Romania are developing autonomous robots for underwater litter collection. The objective of SeaClear – an acronym for “SEarch, identificAtion, and Collection of marine LittEr with Autonomous Robots“ – is to use these robots for the identification and mapping of objects on and underwater as well as new developments in robot control. When the SeaClear system is fully operational, it is expected to detect and classify underwater waste at 80% and collect it with a success rate of 90%.

The robots of the project

The SeaClear project will involve a mixed team of unmanned underwater, surface and aerial vehicles to find and collect litter from the seabed and from the water column.

The project plans to use aerial vehicles to study the correlation between surface and underwater litter. The underwater vehicles will be fitted with special suction grippers for both small and large waste. The system developed will be demonstrated in two case studies: one in the Port of Hamburg, and the other in a touristic area near Dubrovnik.

The central tasks of the Frauhofer CML are the technical coordination and integration of the overall robotic system. In fact, besides Fraunhofer CML and the two end-users, the consortium includes an SME supplying proven hardware for the platform, and three academic institutions with complementary expertise in underwater and aerial robotics, sensing, mapping, and control. The reliable and robust transmission of information is a decisive prerequisite for the shore control centre to be able to control the deployment, navigation and monitoring of the unmanned vehicles later on.

SeaClear receives 5 million Euro funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, it started the 1st January 2020 and will last 4 years.

Discover more about Sea-Clear at this link.

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