Plastic can be a very useful medium, but our throw away culture has also made it a huge pollution problem – especially when it ends up in the sea. While efforts like the Ocean Cleanup attempt to deal with plastic waste near or on the surface, researchers in Italy are developing a robot to clear the seabed of plastic, while also exploring and documenting life at the bottom of the sea.
The original SILVER robot was announced last year, and was being developed as an underwater exploration tool for biologists, geologists, photographers, filmmakers and underwater archaeologists. SILVER 2 can be all that too, but its main job will be to serve as a seabed-walking garbage man. And it took it's first dive at the weekend.
SILVER 2 stands for Seabed Interaction-Legged Vehicle for Exploration and Research 2, and is being developed by the Institute of Biorobotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa, with support from the National Geographic Society and Arbi Dario Spa. It has six articulating legs with enough bounce in its step to safely navigate obstacles without suffering damage, and examines its environment using two high definition cameras.
The dive took place on World Oceans Day, in a protected marine area near Livorno in Italy. Eventually, the 20 lb (9 kg) robot's job will be to locate and remove microplastics. SILVER 2 is still awaiting the installation of a robot arm, to allow for the collection of plastic bags, bottles and other examples of plastic pollution, and hasn't been designed for autonomous operation, but is controlled remotely with the help of a buoy at the surface that sends and receives data to home base.
It is reported capable of diving to a depth of 200 m (656 ft), and its chunky torso has been designed to withstand chilly temperatures. The robot can also carry instruments in its belly, such as drills to enable sample collection. Development of the robot continues.
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