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RS Components Sponsors Our Novel Beach Cleaning Robot Prototype

Project Inspiration

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.

Our solution?

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:

  1. Feeder system
  2. Filtration system
  3. Smart count and GPS system
  4. Drive system
  5. 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:

We are a group of 4 MEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students carrying out our final year project. A lot of our hardware is from RS components (one of our project sponsors) and we're excited to show our progress. The project is sponsored by RS-Components, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, SNC-Lavalin's Atkins, Glasgow Eco Trust and Ruudra-Scott Plastics.

7 Mar 2019, 12:03


April 4, 2019 07:41

Has it been tested with seaweed ?
One of the few things I can see being almost as light as cigarette butts and plastics.

Improvements I can see for the overall design:
1. Angled edges on the casing to reduce damage.
2. Increased ride height, having the whole machine that low down makes it easy to bottom out on uneven sand or big rocks. Only the feeder system needs to be that low.

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March 19, 2019 07:30

Awesome idea, sounds like this could become a useful tool to the authorities that currently look after beaches. Maybe solar power would help, certainly extend the life between recharges.

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March 11, 2019 19:41

Great Idea! Your project should not end after finishing your MEng Study, This project should be supported by European Governments or even by Managers of big companys.I know that beaches everywehre are contaminated by plastic particles. Some of them are microscopic and others can be visually detected by human eye or vision cameras.
Does your filtering system separate really micro particles?
I think you should have different system for cleanig beaches, e.g. One for detection of big parts like tires or big plastic boxes. A second one for small parts, another one for very small parts. That may be a separation and cleaning team of systems.
Do you have specified all parts and particles that made beaches dirty?
There is no question, many beaches are contaminated by plastics of different sizes and colors in all continents specially those that have a big tourist afluency.
There is right now very hard job to do if we want to have plastic free or contaminats free beaches. And that is only the "easy" part, To clean the oceans is the very hard part. Do you have also an idea how to clean the ocean?

0 Votes