The V&A Waterfront has become the first port in Africa to test a plastic-gobbling marine drone, known as a WasteShark, in a three-month pilot project, which kicked off last week.
Two WasteSharks, invented by Richard Hardiman, from Cape Town, will be eating up dirt and plastic in the Waterfront harbour waters for eight hours at a time, daily. The prototype has been tested for the past year at the Port of Rotterdam, Holland, before making its way to the Waterfront.
Mr Hardiman said the idea first came to him when he saw men on boats cleaning the waters with nets, and thought there should be an easier and smarter way to clean the port.
He then started inventing the WasteShark in his Pinelands backyard with some programming and PVC pipes, before moving to Holland to have it built there.
Mr Hardiman then established his company, RanMarine Technology, which manufactures the WasteShark.
“The men with the nets then get upskilled to drone operators, and they no longer have to risk their lives on the waters and on boats.”
The WasteShark can move through the waters for up to eight hours with rechargeable batteries, and has sensors that will measure water quality, weather and depth of the harbour basin.
Sensors also ensure that the drones don’t get in the way of sea traffic, and are able to reverse should they hit anything. The drone can also be operated using remote controls, and is able to communicate with other drones around it.
MrHardimansaidthe WasteShark was able to store up to 200 litres of trash, after which it was removed from the water and emptied out.
“My dream is to get more trash out of the water before it leaves the harbour walls. While it is still inside the harbour, it’s our problem, but when it leaves into the ocean, it becomes someone else’s problem.”
In a statement, the V&A Waterfront CEO David Green, said: “As the country’s oldest working harbour and one of the most recognised waterfronts in the world, the V&A Waterfront is keenly aware of our responsibility to protect this natural resource. The time to act against the scourge of plastic pollution in our waterways is now.
“For us, ensuring that plastic from the harbour does not end up in the open sea is one way of tackling plastic pollution in our oceans, and the WasteShark offers a remarkably practical way in which to do this.”
Andre Blaine, executive manager for marine and industrial issues at the V&A Waterfront, said he was proud that they had partnered with Mr Hardiman, and that he decided to bring his product to the waterfront. “It’s a fantastic little machine. The data that it collects will also be good for our waterlife, so it’s just as important.”
Askedabouthowthe WasteShark would affect marine life, Mr Blaine said: “It’s quite a clever little machine, and it works near to the surface, so it shouldn’t harm any marine life.”
Mr Blaine said after the trial, it was hoped they would still have two WasteSharks in the waters of the harbour.
Mr Hardiman said the idea was to base themselves in the V&A Waterfront while they are in South Africa. “We will continue to manufacture in Rotterdam, but the V&A Waterfront will be where we establish our African base.”
Mr Blaine added that he was excited about this. The product is also being tested in Sweden, India, the United Arab Emirates, America and Australia.