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After almost four years of work, the final SeaClear demonstrations took place in the second week of October in Dubrovnik. On the 9th of October, our researchers demonstrated the capabilities of the SeaClear system in Bistrina bay, a region with intense mariculture activity. After placing litter samples in the water and mapping their true locations via attached buoys with the UAV, the SeaCAT performed a bathymetry scan, which revealed the initial positions of the litter. Then the observation ROV (mini-Tortuga) did an automated, detailed scan of the hotspot area to further detect smaller litter. Finally, the collection ROV automatically picked up the litter.

 SeaClear at BistrinaSeaCAT with Basket and ROVs ready to be deployed at Bistrina bay

The second demonstration took place on the 12th of October on the shores of Lokrum island. The full SeaClear pipeline was tested, amid different water conditions from Bistrina: deeper, but with better visibility. Moreover, the litter found in Lokrum is more related to tourism and is therefore slightly different in nature. In addition to litter mapping and collection, this time around, litter items were also deposited in the litter basket. This is the first time that the full pipeline of the SeaClear system has been demonstrated on the same site, which is a huge step towards cleaning up the sea floor!

 litter in basketLitter deposited succesfully inside the collection basket

During this second demonstration, the research team together with EU evaluators were on-board the Naše More vessel, while the media and local-authority representatives were onboard the Zrinski boat. Underwater live streams were available on both ships, together with explanations of what is happening at each stage. This allowed journalists and evaluators to understand and better follow the steps taken for underwater litter detection, mapping, and collection.

Live underwater ZrinskiLive underwater view of litter picking on board the Zrinski boat

Finally, the day after the demonstration, on the 13th of October, the final SeaClear conference took place at the University of Dubrovnik. The event, titled: “SeaClear: Smart Robots and Human Hearts—for Clean Oceans” welcomed press, local authorities, researchers, and students, to disseminate the results of the SeaClear project. The work package leaders shared their experiences with automatic litter collection from the ocean floor, and lessons learned during this project.

 Sea Clear closing eventDiscussion during the final SeaClear conference

Overall, this demonstration has been seen as a positive step towards cleaning up the ocean floor both by the reviewers but also the media community that participated in the tests. Of course, the results of this project will not go unused: we are already working full speed on the continuation of this project in SeaClear 2.0, where we are planning to address the full life-cycle of litter collection, and improve upon the litter collection capabilities. If you would like to continue receiving news on the progress of cleaning up our ocean's floor, please subscribe to the SeaClear 2.0 newsletter.

The first round of public demonstrations of the SEACLEAR system took place in Hamburg Port on the 8th of June 2023. This was the first time that the public, through media outlets and stakeholders, had the opportunity to interact with the SEACLEAR system, try different scenarios, and discover the potential and possibilities for autonomous litter detection and collection.

Calculated versus measured position of the observational ROVCalculated versus measured position of the observational ROV

 Prior to the demonstration, the SEACLEAR team did final tests and fine-tuning on various components of the system. The autonomous navigation of the SeaCAT and ROVs was tested in both lawnmower patterns and navigation with waypoints. This is crucial for creating the bathymetry map of the area, for detecting litter, and later on collecting it without the need for human intervention.

IMG 20230620 WA0054Litter map projected on a satelite image. The light orange areas are locations of the litter

The litter placed by our team at the beginning of the trials, was later 'discovered' by the observation ROV, and the discovered coordinates of the litter were compared against observations made from the air using the drone of the system. The accuracy of the detection has improved significantly since our last trials, due to upgrades in the sensory system of the underwater ROVs.

IMG 20230608 WA0007View from the gripper camera. A bottle and a can are captured and are visible

The system not only detected the location of the litter, but was also able to pick it up for transfer to the storage basket. During the demonstration, we were able to successfully pick almost all the litter placed by our team.

utc IMG 20230607 154602Media interviewing SEACLEAR team members

The trials and the public demonstration was covered by ZDF, one of the biggest German public-service television broadcasters. The footage that was captured will be featured in 'Plan B', a show about alternatives to some of humanity's biggest problems. Furthermore, several stakeholders from the port of Hamburg visited the demostration, including the Harbor Masters, representatives from (amongst others) the Environmental, Port Strategy, and Hydrographics departments. This was important so that we get relevant feedback and ideas about the operation of the SeaClear system.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 871295.

The SEACLEAR project spans four years, running from January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2023.


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