RS Components Sponsors Our Novel Beach Cleaning Robot PrototypeFollow article
Cigarettes butts and plastics are collecting on beaches and eventually entering the ocean, being consumed by sea life and damaging both our ecosystem and entering up our food chain. Cigarette butts are especially damaging as they contain cellulose acetate which breaks down and emits harmful toxins.
Beach cleanups are performed via two main methods - human beach cleans and human beach cleaning machines which are typically large and pulled along by a tractor. These issues both have problems: the first method usually misses small and sub-surface litter and the latter picks up all materials including shells and stones whilst emitting CO2.
A robotic vehicle to clean beaches with a novel approach to eliminate the associated issues with the current methods. Utilising an on-board feeder and filtration system to separate the synthetic materials from natural ones differentiates this from current systems. In order to be ‘efficient’ as well as provide data for cigarettes on beaches, a smart system identifies potential ‘hotspots’ of cigarettes on beaches to optimise the beach cleaning process through data processing.
Hence, our solution is named and branded the Beach Litter Surveying System - BLiSS. This system can be used post-beach clean-up to clear the beach of cigarette butts and small plastics. The system can be remote controlled but has potential to be autonomous.
A Quick System Overview
Our system has five subsystems:
- Feeder system
- Filtration system
- Smart count and GPS system
- Drive system
- Power system
A feeder system with a brush intakes sand with cigarette butts, plastics, shells and stones and deposits it on a front conveyor with mesh material to filter out the sand. A knife-air based separation system then separates the light litter from natural beach materials which are returned. The back conveyor then identifies cigarettes and counts them, logging the number alongside GPS points. These are then deposited into a container at the back of the system.
BLiSS is using several parts from RS Components. The smart count and GPS system uses image processing and neural networks to count the cigarettes picked up and provide data alongside GPS coordinates for litter 'hot-spot' mapping. We've used a GPS module and Pi camera from RS Components for this. In our later articles, we will go more in depth about some of our sub-systems and how we've used RS Components for some hardware aspects!
A sneak peek of the system can be seen with many electronic parts implemented: