The latest research project being undertaken by the Germen research centre Fraunhofer CML is a project that aims at cleaning the ocean seabed using a combination of robots and artificial intelligence.

It is estimated that the oceans contain between 26 and 66 million tons of waste with approximately 94% of this total located on the seabed. So far, collection efforts have focused mostly on surface waste, with only a few local efforts to gather underwater waste, always involving human divers. Now a team of researchers in a consortium of eight European partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia, France, and Romania, are working on the development of autonomous robots for underwater litter collection.

The SeaClear project will build a mixed team of unmanned underwater, surface and aerial vehicles to find and collect litter from the seabed. The project plans to use aerial vehicles to study the correlation between surface and underwater litter. The underwater vehicles will be fitted with special suction grippers for both small and large waste. The system developed will be demonstrated in two case studies: one in the Port of Hamburg, and the other in a tourist area near Dubrovnik. SeaClear is supported with €5 million funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

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