Argentina is planning to send solar-powered robots out to clean its dirty harbors. If it works, the self-propelled robots may make a big dent in the country’s plastic pollution problem.

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La Plata National University and waste management company Recyclamar Pampa Argentina partnered for the project. The brainiacs at the university’s Institute for Research in Electronics, Control and Signal Processing (LEICI) tackled the complex engineering, including making models and controls and applying algorithms for onboard sensors.

Related: Fish-shaped robot to collect microplastics from water

The new robots can clean surface waste down to about 16 inches deep — just the right depth to round up discarded bags, bottles, microplastics and even floating hydrocarbons, the major pollutants in waterways. The robots will be deployed in ports, rivers and lagoons.  

If you’re familiar with home robot vacuum cleaners, you understand the basic idea. But this new solar bot goes above and beyond the Roomba. By “moving in a liquid medium and unstructured environments such as ports and rivers, where external disturbances are present and must be able to be compensated from the robot’s control,” said Juan Luis Rosendo, a researcher from LEICI, as reported by Argentina Detail Zero. Solar panels placed on top of the robot can recharge its batteries even while the unit is operating.

Plastic pollution is a big problem for most countries, but it’s hit Argentina hard. According to La Prensa Latina, 96% of green turtles admitted to the Mundo Marino Foundation’s rescue center have ingested plastics. Nor is the plastic waste washing up on Argentina’s shores good for seagulls, seals or tourism.

Right now, conservationists are hopeful that the new solar-powered robots will be solid warriors in the battle against plastic. Alan D ́ Alfonso Peral, president and founder of Recyclamer Pampa Argentina, is proud of the robots, which showcase Argentina’s technological and educational prowess.

We Argentines are very decisive,” he said. “With few resources we can do a lot.”

Via Clean Technica, Argentina Detail Zero

Lead image via La Plata National University