Drones are not just the four-rotor UAVs which capture images and perform tricks in the air. They provide innovative technological solutions in almost every industry. Photography drones have become one of the most common forms of drones available in the market. There are drones which can map large acres of lands within minutes. Many drones are also used by law enforcement agencies. Combating pollution and dealing with climate change remains one of the most unsolved issues of the modern world. Dubai’s trash-eating drone is a drone which has been designed to eliminate this very problem. Developed by Dutch company RanMarine, this drone eats up all the waste inside a waterbody.

A highly technological solution

It is called ‘WasteShark’. The name is inspired by its shark-like wide mouth which engulfs large amounts of floating waste. This water drone can be compared to the majestic water mammal by all means. It can carry 352 lbs(159.6 Kg) of trash and has a battery life of 16 hours. Apart from trapping waste, the WaterShark has capabilities to gather air and water quality data. It can also filter the water it is deployed on. WaterShark can filter chemicals out of the water such as oil, arsenic, and heavy metals through filtering pads. It can also scan the seabed to read its depth and contours.

The drone has a collision avoidance system to help it maneuver its way. It uses laser imaging detection and ranging technology to detect any obstacle and stops accordingly. If the obstacle is nearing the drone then the drone automatically moves out of the way.

“Our drones are designed to move through (a) water system, whether it’s around the perimeter or through the city itself. The drones (are) that last line of defense between the city and the open ocean,” said Oliver Cunningham, one of the co-founders of RanMarine.

trash eating drone collects waste from a polluted water body

WasteShark is available in two modes, an autonomous and a remote-controlled model. The remote-controlled one costs $17,000 and the autonomous model falls just under $23,000. WasteSharks are already operating in Dubai, South Africa, and the Netherlands. Dubai-based operator Ecocoast has two WasteShark drones in the emirate. The co-founder of Ecocoast, Dana Liparts, says that this drone can clean waterfronts for clients including hotels, municipalities and other environmental authorities. According to Liparts, Ecocoast intends to recycle or upcycle the collected waste.

But is the trash-eating drone really useful?

“In terms of the units that are currently being deployed, I think they’re relatively small and going to have a minor impact. But if it’s proof of concept for the principle, then potentially it could be used on a larger scale,” John Burt, associate professor of biology at NYU Abu Dhabi, said. WaterShark, currently a small sized drone is however fitted with state of the art technology. It not only cleans the surrounding water body but also measures water quality, temperature, and air pressure. The UAE has a large problem of micro-plastic pollution in its water bodies and the WaterShark could be the first of many preventive measures on the line. According to Cunningham, RanMarine is working on a much larger model of the WaterShark which may bring the perfect solution for water pollution not only in Dubai but across the globe.

Watch how the WaterShark swallows chunks of floatable waste: