Robot Whales Will Save Us, I Assure You

More linking strands in the swirling digital chum of the intertube, gentle reader.

First off, here’s an oldie but goodie (from way back in in 2008) from Vice:

Whereupon they tag along with a mission to catalog what’s floating around in the vast plastic morass in the middle of the Pacific.  In case you’re unfamiliar, the Wikigods say:

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Eastern Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N and estimated to be twice the size of Texas.[1] The patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of suspended plastic and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.

Mix that with a report on Pink Tentacle about floating robot UAVs deployed in the gross urban waterways of my ex-stomping grounds of Osaka.  Keeping it Japan-style, they look like UFO’s with a jaunty blowhole fountain that is not only cute but serves to keep the solar panels chilled down for better efficiency.

These two bits of internet flotsam fused somewhere in my brain: why not develop some kind of UAV that feeds off its environment to skim out at least the surface flotsam of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While this couldn’t be a straight-up port of the Osaka UFO floaters (they filter the water, not skim out trash, the concept is there.  Additionally, why not pattern this on a successful creature in that environment that feeds in a similar fashion: baleen whales.


Picture it: a pod of three to five robo-whales chomp and filter great mouthfuls of trashy seawater in the gently swirling waters of the gyre, fed by solar panels, internally mounted motion-activated dynamos and an internal “digestion” system that burns or chemically breaks down the plastics into fuel.  Undigested waste products are compacted and floated out on tethers for later collection and use in constructing a floating monitoring station maintained by well-heeled sailing eco-tourists.

Hell. Yes.  Someone put up a cool million for an X-prize and make MIT and RPI race the garage scene for a working prototype.  All I ask is that every one of ’em has a little decal that reads: “AARON CAEL THINKS YOU’RE TRASH”

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