Marine debris, such as plastics, abandoned fishing nets, and other waste, is a serious problem for the world's oceans and rivers. Not only is it unsightly, but it can also harm marine life, damage ecosystems, and impact the livelihoods of coastal communities.
One technology that has been used to tackle this problem is remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). ROVs are underwater robots that can be controlled from the surface and used to perform a variety of tasks, including surveying the seabed, collecting samples, and manipulating objects. They are often equipped with cameras and other sensors that allow operators to see what is happening in the underwater environment.
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Marine Debris Collection with ROVs
There have been several initiatives that have used ROVs to collect marine debris. One example is the "Operation Ghost Net" project, which was launched in 2018 by the non-profit organisation Healthy Seas. The project used an ROV called the "Deep Trekker DTG2" to locate and remove "ghost nets" – fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned and are still floating in the water, posing a threat to marine life. The operation took place in the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of Croatia, and the ROV was able to collect several tons of nets over the course of several dives. No customisation was made to the ROV for this specific mission. The DTG2 is available commercially from USD $8,000.
Another ROV, "The Brigitte Bardot," is a Triton XLS submersible that was used by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to remove abandoned fishing gear from the Gulf of California back in 2010. The Brigitte Bardot has a depth rating of 1000 meters, and is equipped with a manipulator arm and a high-definition camera. It was named after the French actress and animal rights activist, and is part of a larger fleet of ships and submersibles used by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for marine conservation efforts. It is custom built and not commercially available.
"The Star III," used by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, collected debris in the Sea of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. The Star III is a remotely operated vehicle with a depth rating of 3,000 meters, and is equipped with a manipulator arm, sonar, and video camera. It was used to locate and retrieve debris, such as cars, boats, and other large items, from the ocean floor.
The OceanOne, developed by Stanford University to explore and collect archaeological artefacts from shipwrecks, is a humanoid robotic diver that can operate at depths of up to 2,000 meters. It is equipped with two manipulator arms, high-resolution cameras, and sensors that allow it to "feel" its surroundings. In addition to marine debris collection, the OceanOne has been used for deep-sea exploration and scientific research.
The Scottish government used the Mini ROV, the Trident OpenROV, in 2018 to remove plastic waste from the ocean floor in a marine protected area. The Mini ROV is a small, manoeuverable ROV that is equipped with a high-definition camera and manipulator arm and can operate at depths of up to 100 meters.It was also used by the California State Parks Department to collect marine debris. OpenROV is according to our research no longer available.
The Yogi, used by the Ocean Voyages Institute in 2020, is a custom-built, remotely operated vessel designed specifically for marine debris collection. It is equipped with multiple cameras, sensors, and manipulator arms, and can operate at depths of up to 600 meters. The Yogi was part of a larger fleet of ships and ROVs used by the Ocean Voyages Institute for marine debris removal.
"The Seaeye Falcon DR"is used by the Marine Conservation Society to survey and remove marine debris from the waters around the UK. The Seaeye Falcon DR is a remotely operated vehicle that can operate at depths of up to 300 meters. It is equipped with a high-definition camera, a manipulator arm, and a sonar system, and can be deployed from a small boat or from shore. The ROV is used to identify and collect marine debris, such as abandoned fishing gear, plastic bags, and other litter. The Seaeye Falcon starts at around $200,000 USD
Deep Discoverer is a remotely operated vehicle used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore and study deep-sea environments. The Deep Discoverer is not available commercially.
Two brands of ROVs that are well-manufactured, efficient and well-priced and that have been used in marine debris collection are the Blue Robotics BR2 and also QYSEA. In 2019, the Ocean Voyages Institute used a BR2 ROV to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The ROV was used to locate and collect large items of debris, which were then lifted onboard the cleanup vessel.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) in Florida has also used the BR2 ROV for marine debris collection. In 2020, the CMARI team used the ROV to retrieve a large piece of debris from the Gulf of Mexico, which was then analysed for its impact on marine life.
In 2020, the National University of Singapore used a QYSEA FIFISH V6 ROV to collect marine debris in the waters around Singapore. The ROV was equipped with a custom-made mesh net to capture debris, which was then analysed for its impact on marine ecosystems.
The Oceanographic Research Institute in South Africa has also used a QYSEA FIFISH V6 ROV for marine debris collection. In 2021, the ROV was used to survey the impact of a major oil spill on marine life, and to collect debris that had been contaminated by the spill.
First Commercially Available ROV Specifically for Marine Debris
While there have been some initiatives that have used ROVs for marine debris collection, there has not been a ROV specifically designed and commercially available for this purpose. This is where the De Litter Bug comes in. The De Litter Bug is a ROV that has been designed from the ground up for marine debris collection.
Marine Debris Tools on De Litter Bug
With a price tag of less than $8,000 USD, it is an affordable option for many organisations.
De Litter Bug ROV is equipped with a variety of tools that make it particularly effective for marine debris collection. These include a ghost net cutter, heavy lift bag, can and bottle collector, and grappling hook. With these tools, the De Litter Bug ROV is capable of collecting a wide range of marine debris, from fishing nets to plastic bottles.
One of the key advantages of the De Litter Bug ROV is its ability to cut through ghost nets. Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean. They can continue to trap and kill marine life for years, even decades. By cutting through these nets, the De Litter Bug ROV can help prevent this harm to marine life.
The heavy lift bag on the De Litter Bug ROV is also a useful tool for marine debris collection. It allows the ROV to lift heavy or bulky items, up to 250kgs in weight, such as large fishing nets, off the ocean floor and bring them to the surface for disposal.
The can and bottle collector is another important feature of the De Litter Bug ROV. It allows the ROV to collect small items of marine debris, such as plastic bottles and cans, which can be harmful to marine life if ingested.
Finally, the grappling hook on the De Litter Bug ROV is useful for collecting larger items of marine debris, such as discarded fishing gear or other debris that may be too large for the other tools on the ROV.
Able to go to 600 metres, and with its low price means that buying a remotely operated vehicle for marine debris collection it is an option many organisations may now consider.
Remote Asset Management and ROVs
There are a few stages in the development of the De Litter Bug, including allowing it to be operated remotely - that is, with remote asset management. Remote asset management for our ROV refers to the ability to remotely control and monitor the ROV's operations and data from anywhere in the world, as long as there is an internet connection.
This can be done through a secure connection that is established over the internet or with Starlink satellite internet service. It allows users to connect to the internet from anywhere in the world, even in remote areas where traditional internet infrastructure is not available. With a reliable and high-speed internet connection, users can control and monitor the ROV's operations in real-time, regardless of their geographical location. Volunteers from environmental organisations could take turns in using the ROV for marine debris collection no matter the people are located or where the ROVs are located in the world.
These technologies enable real-time monitoring and decision-making, which can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the ROV's operations, and expand its capabilities to remote and inaccessible areas or the high seas.
A Healthy Future For Our Oceans
The use of ROVs for marine debris collection is likely to continue to grow in the future as technology advances and more organisations become involved in marine conservation efforts. At Down Deep Drones we see our initiative as creating a strong possibility to assist organisations in this essential task.
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