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As the SeaClear project progresses, Fraunhofer CML has been busy with the design and development of the collection basket for the autonomous system. The basket is designated to aggregate collected litter and ensure a safe transport out of the water and later on to shore, at the end of each mission. A modular prototype was built that allows for experiments with different wall materials, ROV-to-Basket docking areas, and Gripper-to-Basket interfaces.

Lateral view of the basket prototype
Prototype basket configuration with mesh-structure walls and elastomer lip interface

The goal of the SeaClear project is to develop autonomous underwater and surface vessels for mapping, classification and collection of marine waste. Hopefully in the future, robots will be cleaning our oceans continuously, but for now, periodic ocean clean-up actions performed by divers and manned vessels remain the only option. However, to test the efficiency of the autonomous vessels being developed through the project, a baseline must be used for comparison, making monitoring the efficiency of current ocean clean-up actions essential to the project.

Today, as part of World Water Day, we are publishing the official animation of the project! This explains in a graphical way the objectives of SeaClear and how we are planning to achieve them. You can appreciate the way the robots are expected to interact with each other and their individual role in the system, together with the importance and the impact of our proposed solution.

The team at TUM - ITR has developed a prototype of the gripper device for SeaClear. This version is decidedly simple for robust operation under harsh conditions and will provide a baseline for comparing its efficiency to upgrades with suction capabilities and other advanced features. In this video a KUKA iiwa robot is used to simulate the motion of the underwater vehicle the skid and gripper will be attached to. The versatility and robustness of the gripper design is shown by collecting various objects of different shapes and material, from stiff but deformed cans to flexible nets or piles of objects.

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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