Today's oceans contain 26-66 million tons of waste, with approximately 94% located on the seafloor. So far, collection efforts have focused mostly on surface waste, with only a few local efforts to gather underwater waste, always involving human divers. No solution exists that exploits autonomous robots for underwater litter collection. A team of researchers at TUM, in a consortium of eight European partners from the Netherlands, Croatia, France, Germany, and Romania are working on the development of autonomous robots for underwater littler collection.
“Oceanic waste is a pressing issue and will be for years to come. The SeaClear system is our piece of the puzzle to the recovery of the oceans.”
The SeaClear project will build a mixed team of unmanned underwater, surface and aerial vehicles to find and collect litter from the seabed. 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 port cleaning (with end-user Hamburg Port Authority), and the other in a touristic area (Dubrovnik – with end-user DUNEA). Besides the two end-users, the consortium includes an SME supplying proven hardware for the platform, and four academic institutions with complementary expertise in underwater and aerial robotics, sensing, mapping, and control.
SeaClear received €5M funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871295.