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We are building the first robots to clean the litter from the ocean floor!


SeaClear — short for SEarch, identificAtion and Collection of marine Litter with Autonomous Robots — is a Horizon 2020 funded project that aims to solve, with the help of robots and artificial intelligence, one of the most important environmental problems: ocean litter.

How does the system work

Today's oceans contain 26-66 million tons of waste, with approximately 94% located on the seafloor. The SeaClear project aims at automating the process of searching, identifying, and collecting marine litter, using a team of autonomous robots that work collaboratively.
  • Users define an area that they want to have cleaned.
  • A surface vessel scans the sea bottom and large debris may already be seen at this stage.
  • An observation underwater robot, whose main job is to find litter of any size, adds more details to the scan with close-up targeted scans of the bottom.
  • In clear water, a drone also searches for litter from the air. Identified litter is registered on a map.
  • They all communicate with a surface ship that acts as a hub and helps robots work together.
  • AI helps recognise and classify litter, as to not collect plants or sea creatures by mistake.
  • An underwater robot goes to each piece of litter on the map and grabs it with a custom made gripper.
  • The litter is collected in a basket for transportation to the shore.

How do we innovate?

So far, collection efforts have focused mostly on surface waste, with only a few local efforts to gather underwater waste, always using human divers. No solution exists that exploits autonomous robots for underwater litter collection; the SeaClear project will develop the first. Our platform for search, identification, and collection of sea litter using UAVs and autonomous UUVs will innovate in the following technical directions:
  • online identification of debris versus marine life from underwater sensors
  • integrated underwater and surface mapping
  • underwater collection of small and larger-size litter
  • cooperative control of the robotic team

Who are we?

The SeaClear consortium consists of 8 European partners. It includes the two end-users mentioned above, an SME supplying proven hardware for our platform; an experienced marine system integrator; and four academic institutions with complementary expertise in underwater and aerial robotics, sensing, mapping, and control.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 871295.

The SEACLEAR project spans four years, running from January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2023.


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