AI Track: This Robotic Watercraft Could Clean the Sea Surface



Plastic waste is wreaking devastation on the world's waters. Around eight million tons of plastic garbage enter the ocean each year, endangering marine life, decimating fisheries, and polluting our beaches and coasts. There are numerous approaches to addressing this issue, but one of the most promising is the application of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can be used to discover and track plastic pollution, create novel cleanup technologies, and educate the public about the problem. It is believed that our seas contain up to 66 million tons of trash, the vast majority of which is located on the ocean floor. Except for a few potentially dangerous activities involving human divers, most efforts to eliminate seabed garbage have concentrated on litter floating on the surface.

One of the most difficult obstacles in tackling plastic pollution is just locating it. AI can assist with this endeavor by using satellite photography and machine learning to identify plastic garbage in the water. This data can then be utilized to plan targeted cleanup activities. While massive language models, which form the foundation of technologies like ChatGPT, have recently received attention, AI algorithms are already being utilized to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Most artificial intelligence isn't flashy; it is about distilling enormous datasets into useful information, such as examining satellite pictures for signs of deforestation.

Marine-Plastic Initiatives

AI algorithms are already being employed in a variety of applications. However, while AI has made the process more efficient and autonomous, there are still some restrictions. Improving the projections in the energy consumption and renewable supply for power grids could help in optimizing complex systems to reduce the energy necessary to heat and cool buildings or to improve the efficiency of industrial processes.

The Ocean Cleanup project is one of the most well-funded and well-known marine-plastic initiatives. It has created an AI technology to detect and map plastic debris at sea in order to better allocate cleanup efforts. Meanwhile, Open Ocean Engineering, a Hong Kong-based business, has created Cleverbot, a small solar-powered robot that can collect trash and clean up oil spills in urban waterways. It can gather up to 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of garbage per mission and utilizes artificial intelligence to record and categorize the waste it collects.

Even if the algorithms function flawlessly, how you utilize them matters - and there are numerous well-documented flaws with these programs. For example, the Ocean Cleanup has essentially re-invented trawl trawling, but for plastic. This carries hazards for ocean life and biodiversity, which it is attempting to safeguard. Even at its slowest speed, the system could catch tens of thousands of small sea species, such as crabs, fish, jellyfish, and squid, according to the company's calculations. The Ocean Cleanup caught 193,832 kg of plastic and 667 kg of so-called bycatch, mostly fish, sharks, mollusks, and sea turtles, during the first 12 excursions of its trawl-net system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While that is a lot more plastic than marine life, a cost-benefit analysis must be performed. Furthermore, the massive nets are hauled by diesel-powered ships, resulting in an incredibly carbon-intensive process.

Meghalaya Attempting a Unique Method to Clean Up the Gorgeous Umiam Lake

The administration of Meghalaya, a state in northeastern India, is attempting a unique method to clean up the gorgeous Umiam Lake, which has been significantly impacted by plastic garbage. In order to address the issue, the government intends to deploy an AI-powered robotic watercraft. Umiam Lake, in the state capital, Shillong, has been polluted by tons of plastic trash dumped into the lake every day. The chief causes of this pollution are the Umkhrah and Umshyrpi rivers, which flow through Shillong and transport plastic debris into the lake.

The government's approach entails using an AI-powered robotic boat to access the lake's southern end, where plastic waste accumulates. Using artificial intelligence, the boat can explore the lake and gather plastic debris, thereby cleaning up dirty areas. This novel way of cleaning up the lake emphasizes using technology to address environmental challenges. The Meghalaya government hopes to use artificial intelligence to not only clean up Umiam Lake but also to increase awareness about the need for environmental preservation.


This effort demonstrates the possibilities of employing technology to solve environmental concerns. By adding AI into the cleanup process, the government of Meghalaya is setting a precedent for future inventive solutions to environmental concerns. 

Application of AI in Electricity Demand Projections

AI is also assisting in other areas. National Grid ESO, the UK's electricity system operator, is employing AI to improve the accuracy of its electricity demand projections, allowing for better renewable energy integration. It has worked on developing technologies for automated insect sensors to help accelerate and expand biodiversity data collection around the world. The payoff has already been enormous: In Panama, the system assisted entomologists in identifying 100 previously unknown species.

AI can also be utilized to create new cleaning methods. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, for example, have created a robot that can swim across the ocean and collect plastic garbage. The robot has a camera and a suction system, allowing it to detect and remove plastic particles from the water. The usage of self-driving drones is another promising technology. Drones can be outfitted with cameras and sensors to detect and track plastic litter. They can also be used to deploy cleanup equipment like nets and traps to gather garbage from the ocean.

Aside from the technologies, there are a number of other ways that AI can be used to clean up our oceans. AI, for example, can be used to:

  • Design more efficient and effective cleanup systems
  • Optimize the placement of cleanup systems
  • Track the progress of cleanup efforts
  • Communicate with the public about cleanup efforts

As AI advances, we should expect to see increasingly more creative and successful methods to clean up our oceans. AI is a potent weapon that can be utilized to combat the issue of plastic pollution. AI can help us clean up our seas and conserve marine life by recognizing and tracking plastic waste, developing innovative cleanup solutions, and educating the public.