Drones doing their part for Plastic Free July
By Maddie Glacken
When someone says ‘drone’,what comes to your mind? A little quadcopter with four rotors flying through the air, am I right? The word ‘drone’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster as an unmanned craft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers. Drones aren’t just little aircraft flying through the air – they can be ground rovers or even submersible aquatic drones.
Aquatic drones allow us to see below the deep blue and descend into the mysterious depths of our planet’s lakes, seas and oceans. They are equipped with cameras and hold amazing prospects for science under the waves – a much less labour intensive way of gathering data than say, scuba diving, for instance. However, these aquatic drones may have an even more important purpose.
Sunday 1 July, 2018 marked the start of this year’s Plastic Free July and a perfect time to shine a spotlight on one of the environmental problems facing our planet at this time – and how drones can help fix it. Our oceans are essentially drowning in plastic. Every minute approximately one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped in our oceans, and every day 250 marine animals choke to death on plastic. Most of this plastic is unfortunately, single use – used once and thrown away.
However, fortunately, this means that we can try and avoid it. Richard Hardiman is a man on a mission and that mission is to clean up the worlds oceans using ‘Waste Shark’. This amazing aquatic drone was developed in 2016 and is an autonomous vessel that gathers plastic and other waste from bodies of water.
The waste shark can collect 500kg of rubbish before returning to its home base to empty and begin again. Almost like a vacuum cleaner for the ocean! It is modelled off a whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean. Whale sharks swim around with their mouths open; filter feeding by swallowing plankton that crosses its path. Dr Jamileh Javidpour, another scientist working to stop plastic pollution in our oceans is using jellyfish slime as a natural filter to try and stop plastics polluting our seas. She says ‘We have to be innovative to stop microplastics from entering the ocean’.
There are things the population can do in their daily lives to help reduce this problem. We can make the switch to reusable or natural products. We can turn down that straw at the café. We can take reusable bags to the supermarket. However, we can’t reverse the damage that has already been done.
The Waste Shark is an incredibly innovative piece of drone technology that is working to undo this damage. Each piece of plastic it removes from the ocean is one small win for our marine environment. So this Plastic Free July, remember the Waste Shark. A little drone in the big ocean - doing its best to clean up the mess of plastic pollution.