11.–12.06.2025 #polismobility

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With a bite against water pollution


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A shark-like aqua drone collects plastic waste in offshore waters to prevent it from entering the oceans in the first place. The robots are now on the move around the world, and their bigger brother MegaShark was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2023.

The WasteShark at the King's Day in Delft. © RanMarine

The WasteShark at the King's Day in Delft. © RanMarine

With up to 37 million tons of toxic plastic waste expected to enter the oceans each year by 2040 without appropriate countermeasures, according to a United Nations estimate, marine pollution is one of the most widespread environmental problems. Dutch scale-up company RanMarine is delivering a fighting message to floating plastic waste with the WasteShark. The world's first commercially available drone for old-style waters collects not only trash, but also data on water quality, such as oxygen levels, turbidity or blue-green bacteria. The WasteShark has a range of up to five kilometers and is autonomous for up to six hours via GPS route guidance. As the name suggests, the design is based on the whale shark and only rises shallowly above the water surface. The efficient size of approximately 1.57 by 1.09 m is therefore also suitable for urban waterways. The MegaShark made its debut at CES 2023 in Las Vegas: a larger version with a waste compactor and improved suction function, on which even a human can sit.

Inventor Richard Hardiman got the idea for the robotic shark in his native South Africa, where fishing nets were used to pull trash out of the sea - but he was also inspired by the movie "WALL-E." The newly minted father felt that as an engineer, he could make the process more efficient and do some good for the world. With the support of the Rotterdam Port Authority, he founded his company, which developed the robotic shark and has been selling it quite successfully since 2019. In total, RanMarine shipped more than 50 units around the world. Customers are mainly water boards, but also amusement parks or marinas. In the Netherlands, the municipalities of Dordrecht and Zaanstad used the WasteShark to clean up their canals. The people of Zaanstad named their shark Veulvreter last December, and since then it has been out and about in the canals in the center of Zaandam. RanMarine still has big plans, especially in the U.S. The company is planning a major funding round in April and wants to increase its presence there. It is also planning further versions of the drone, which will treat oil spills, for example, or which will act as a "mother ship" for the smaller Shark robots.


Maximilian Hossner & Jan Klein