AI Software for Autonomous Litter Collection Vessels

By Mike Ball / 25 Jan 2022

Autonomous litter collection vessel

Marine AI has confirmed that it has partnered with Water Witch, a developer of marine litter collection workboats, to provide its Guardian autonomous software solution for a new generation of autonomous vessels.

Water Witch has created innovative and efficient vessels to help clean up marine environments, and over 200 of their debris collection and trash retrieval workboats are currently operating around the world. The next generation of the company’s marine litter vessels will combine the proven Versi-Cat Trash Skimmer design with Marine AI’s Guardian. These new vessels will be fully autonomous, smaller and lighter, and will be fitted with thrusters: these modifications will increase versatility, manoeuvrability and portability whilst reducing operating costs. The development represents a major advancement in the cost efficiency of retrieving plastic and the new boats will have sufficient recovery capacity for most applications.

Guardian’s advanced data analytics will enable full automation of the process and will allow marine litter and ocean plastic retrieval to be optimised. The detailed data captured and processed by GUARDIAN will give better insights into the location and predicted movements of plastics in the marine environment, the variations and density of these hotspots, and the characteristics of the litter. The AI technology will use this monitoring, modelling and machine learning capability to increase the recovery capacity, endurance and the cost-efficiency of the cleanup process.

The key features of the Water Witch’s next-generation vessel will include:

  • Electric propulsion for zero emission and zero pollution operation
  • Guardian Vision for human-in-the-loop object detection and classification, with the ability to increase AI functionality up to a COLREG-compliant level control system by utilising the Guardian Autonomy software suite
  • Built from environmentally friendly, sustainable materials, including marine grade aluminium
  • 70% recycled content and completely recyclable at the end of its working life
  • High recovery capacity and efficient system for collecting all types of marine litter, algae and vegetation
  • Robust design which can be scaled up
  • Technology can be refitted to existing Water Witch Trash Skimmers

Matthew Ratsey, MD of Marine AI, commented: “The increasing presence of marine litter, particularly plastics, in our oceans is one of the biggest challenges of our time. We are delighted to partner with Water Witch to assist them reduce the global marine litter problem.”

Jackie Caddick, Director of Liverpool Waterwitch Marine & Engineering Co. Ltd, noted: “Over 90% of marine debris reaches the ocean from rivers. By reducing the flow of plastics and waste in our inland waterways, rivers, and estuaries, we can really make a huge difference. Guardian will significantly enhance Water Witch’s capability: the new autonomous vessels will be able to collect, monitor and model marine plastic occurrence, behaviour and flow paths. We are confident that the next generation Trash Skimmers will provide a proven and innovative solution to achieve cleaner waters.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact