Cypriot scientists are participating in the first European research for the development of an autonomous robotic system to detect marine litter, according to an announcement by the AKTI Research and Studies Centre.

SeaClear 2.0 is a new, innovative European project launched in the New Year with a budget of over €9 million. It aims to solve the problem of litter on the seabed and on the surface of the sea with robotic technologies, the announcement said.

Using artificial intelligence, robots will be able to autonomously identify, locate and collect waste. Furthermore, the project incorporates modern methods for engaging Europe’s citizens by implementing citizen science actions.

With almost half a billion tonnes of plastic entering European seas every year, technological solutions to identify and remove waste need to be combined with social interventions to tackle the issue.

“Our seas have become landfills and we must all make the effort needed to reverse the destructive trend leading to the collapse of marine ecosystems,” said the Director of the Cypriot research company ISOTECH Ltd Dr Xenia Loizidou who is a partner in this project.

The Cypriot scientific team is leading the development of policy recommendations and the implementation of social interventions across the Mediterranean to prevent and reduce the production and improper disposal of waste.

The SeaClear 2.0 project seeks to develop a fleet of smart robots, using artificial intelligence, to detect and remove marine litter using a combination of aerial drones, Underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), autonomous surface ships and specially designed robotic arms, the announcement added.

The technological core of SeaClear 2.0 consists of a highly upgraded software for automated litter collection, which can go to greater depths, lift heavier litter and also collect surface litter. It uses high-resolution sonar, electromagnetic sensors and microplastic detection sensors. A smart and flexible handle and a collection float are to be developed to collect and transport large garbage to land, it was added.

The SeaClear 2.0 project is funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe research framework with a total budget of €9,086,305. The research consortium consists of 13 partners from 9 countries, with a range of expertise from robotics and artificial intelligence to waste management and participatory processes.

Those are the Delft University of Technology of the Netherlands, which is coordinating the project, the Cypriot Isotech Research and Environment Consultants, the Dunea Regional Agency and the University of Dubrovnik in Croatia, from Germany the Technical University of Munich, Fraunhofer and the Hamburg Port Authority, M. Danchor from Israel, the French companies Subsea Tech and Veolia, the Spanish TecnoSub, the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and the Italian Venice Lagoon Plastic Free Agency, the statement added.