European consortium developing robots, AI for ocean cleanup duties

POLLUTION RECOVERY WEEK
Illustration of the SeaClear system (Photo: Technical University of Munich/Stefan Sosnowski)

Hamburg-based research institute Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (Fraunhofer CML) and seven other European partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia, France, and Romania have begun working on the development of autonomous robots for underwater litter collection under a project named SeaClear.

The project aims to build a mixed team of unmanned underwater, surface, and aerial vehicles to find and collect litter from the seabed. Aerial vehicles will be used to study the correlation between surface and underwater litter while underwater vehicles will be fitted with special suction grippers for both small and large waste.

The system to be developed will be demonstrated in two case studies: one in the Port of Hamburg, and the other in an area near Dubrovnik.

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.

SeaClear has received €5 million (US$5.61 million) in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Fraunhofer CML will be tasked with management and implementation of system integration. In this work package, the hardware and software infrastructure as well as the interfaces for data exchange between the robot vehicles and the shore control centre are designed and implemented.

The project has a duration of four years until December 31, 2023.

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