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Swimming With the Trash: A Marine Drone Seeks to Scoop up Plastic

Designers propose an underwater drone to help clean the oceans.

While there's been plenty of media pointing out or raising awareness about the disaster submerged right beneath sea level— the mountain-sized patch of plastic and other garbage that's been collecting in oceans around the world, particularly in the Pacific—there's less attention to some of the solutions that are currently in the works. Part of the reason is that the problem seems so huge (indeed, it's beyond the point of return) and so distant that it's not necessarily the easiest to conceive of steps to take action against.

Yet a crew of big-thinking designers has a concept for a trash-skimming and sensor-equipped "marine drone" that could detect trash in the ocean and scoop it into its net to be recycled. The drone is designed to navigate the ocean for two weeks at a time and would use an infrasound system to keep fish at bay. Think of a pool net that swims underneath the ocean by itself.

Behind the project is a French team of industrial designers: Elie Ahovi, Adrien Lefebvre, Philomène Lambaere, Marion Wipliez, Quentin Sorel, and Benjamin Lemoal. While the product represents simply an idea for now, it's important to see dialogue about the problem that extends in the direction of action, not just fear and dread.

What are other important design-centric approaches toward cleaning the ocean? Let us know in the comments.

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