Garbage-gobbling drone may be coming to a harbor near you

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One of the WasteShark prototypes (either Fatboy or Slim) at work in the Port of Rotterdam(Credit: RanMarine)

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There may indeed be floating plastic waste strewn all across the surface of the world's oceans, but most of that trash still enters the water along the shoreline. It was with this in mind that South African entrepreneur Richard Hardiman created the WasteShark. It's an aquatic drone that's designed to autonomously cruise harbors and gulp down garbage, before that waste can drift out to sea.

Manufactured by Hardiman's Netherlands-based company RanMarine, the craft takes the form of a small electric catamaran with a scoop (or "mouth," if you will) located between the pontoons. As the WasteShark moves through the harbor, that scoop skims the surface and collects floating trash, transferring it into an onboard hopper for subsequent removal.

Plans call for the drone to also collect data such as water quality, depth and weather conditions, transmitting that information to port authorities in real time. Additionally, its onboard software will allow it to progressively learn about its environment, so it can tweak its routes for maximum efficiency depending on weather and tides.

Hardiman's project was recently accepted into a Dutch accelerator program for port-related technologies, which is what brought him to The Netherlands. He and his team have been testing WasteShark prototypes in the Port of Rotterdam – they're of two different sizes, and are thus named Fatboy and Slim. A pilot project ultimately calls for four of the craft to work the port over the next few months.

In the long run, Richard hopes to develop a larger solar-powered version called the Great Waste Shark, that can collect up to 500 kg (1,102 lb) of trash at a time. Onboard sensors including a camera will help it avoid collisions with other harbor traffic, although geofencing technology will also be used to keep it out of particularly busy areas.

For now though, you can see the prototypes in action, in the video below.

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