WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

Submitted
Gathering votes
Support
Gathering votes
Originality
Refine
Eligible

Restoration Drone for Polluted Waterways.

Our waterways are in crises, pollution, poor land management and climate change have all had a detrimental effect on our natural water resources. 

 

As environmental product designers, our core philosophy is to recognise some of the significant problems which face New Zealand and try to provide practical, innovative solutions which achieves high impact and action-based results.  

We have invented a 'Restoration Drone' which has the capability of removing polluted waste from our waterways (such as lakes, streams, estuaries, the sea).  This novel Water-Drone has undergone 5 years of development and is fully transferable and deployable to all regions/areas throughout New Zealand or internationally. Its original design is easy to replicate and provide a sustainable and effective 'first response' solution for local councils, environmental councils, Maritime NZ, scientist and conservation organisations. The water drone has the unique capability of independently removing water surface pollutants (such as rubbish, toxic algae and oil) to help regularly maintain healthy water environments and can also be used as a 'first response' vehicle for environmental emergencies.  We believe the water-drone can have a huge positive impact on the restoration and ongoing protection of our waterways and can help preserve New Zealand's precious environment for future generations.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?


The conservation problem that we will be addressing is water pollution (such as oil/chemical contamination or emergency spills, floating toxic algae or biomass, floating rubbish). 

Our goal is to provide Councils, stakeholders, environment organisations, Scientists, Iwi with an effective and sustainable " tool" for frontline operations.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

 The first prototype is complete and fully tested. The water drones removes surface waste (such as rubbish) by skimming across the water surface and collects waste inside its internal cage system. The cage holds 130 litres of solid material. The next model will introduce an on board, skimmer pump and storage system. This will have the additional capability of removing hydrocarbons, algae, plastic pellets and microplastics. This waste material can be filtered out and stored for potential recycling. The drone is either remote controlled (by a single operator) or can be fully autonomous by GPS/waypoint navigation on Google Earth. This enables the drone to work in site-specific locations.  Multiple drones can be networked together for larger operations. This is an independent, sustainable, cost-effective, solution in relation to current methods employed. It has no negative environmental impact and reduces health and safety implications for human contact with high-risk hazards. 

What makes your idea new and unique?


We are not aware of any other (National or international )  water drones technologies/research which have the capabilities and applications of this design.

This innovative solution has the potential of being a 'real game changer' in how water quality issues are managed in NZ.  It has the potential to make a huge positive impact on our environment and empower councils, scientist, Maritime NZ with an effective/ efficient 'tool' to help reverse the effects of pollution and maintain our waterways for future generations. 

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

This project is aimed towards Government Departments, Councils, Regional Councils, Harbour boards, water care providers, waterway restoration groups, Iwi. NGO and water Scientists.

This design provides these groups with an effective "tool' for on going maintenance and restoration and also an important means to deal with emergency responses for environmental hazards. 

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

So far we have completed the first stage of development. This has been fully tested and in a number of different water-environments with great results. We are slightly refining the design in response to its performance in the new model. 

This model will be slightly larger,  has upgraded motor power and will have a skimmer/suction pump system. This new drone has received a small grant from "Foundation North" and would like to acknowledge their wonderful support.

Ideally, further funding will help pay for more advanced sensors, communication system and thermal imaging camera for pollution detection. The funding will also help mobilise the drone to be employed in different areas/ regions of New Zealand.

 

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

1) The Urban Rat Project -  Getting people motivated and staying motivated is a great idea and could be applied to other conservation projects.


2) One self-resetting trap that kills both Possums and Rats - It makes sense to deal with both possums and rats in one application. 


3)Kiwi Trailblazers-great idea to get kids interested and motivated. 


4)SWIMMING with E-COLI - something we have been waiting for.


5)Thermal Imaging to unmask what is in my backyard - accurate data is essential to solving issues

How could you improve your idea?

Design

Currently, we are actively testing the drone in high-risk polluted estuaries, whereby we have encountered a lot of Urban rubbish, industrial waste and sewage residue. The drone has performed very well in dealing with these issues, by using both its cage system and micro-membrane liner. However, the main design issues which need refinement at this stage are, 1)  that the drone needs to turn on its own axis (due to the tight environment it's working in) 2) We need include weed guards to protect the drone against entanglement (from old fishing lines, rope, string etc).We believe by dealing with inflow waste we will have a positive impact in protecting the sea. 

 

 

Process

We would like to refine our methodology by involving a wider team of consultants during the design process (such as from Regional Council,  Maritime NZ) to ensure we are integrating their knowledge and specific requirements in the final design. We would also like to seek further collaboration with water scientists, sensor technologists and Smart Communications.  

We are also interested in the 'end-tail' of waste management in terms of the recyclability of oil, toxic algae, noxious weed and plastics and will further research on industries in this area.   

This process has been greatly informative for our design direction and it's inspiring to see other great ideas, some of which we can see working in collaboration with ours. We thank WWF for the opportunity to have received public feedback.

Videos
edited on Oct 15, 2017 by Andrew Lee

Jacqui Buckley Oct 8, 2017

An outstanding idea which has positive application through out the world particularly for Oil/chemical contamination or emergency spills, algae or biomass contamination.

Reply

Fiona Edwards Oct 8, 2017

Kia ora, you have identified a lot of possible uses for the drone, however I think it would be useful to identify one conservation/environmental problem that is of high priority and needs urgent attention and describe how the restoration drone would make a 'game changing' difference to that problem. It would also be useful to know what trials you have conducted to date and the results of those trials.
It would also be useful if you could provide some more information about the next stage of development and how the $25,000 award would be spent.
Good luck with your project
Fiona Edwards

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Kia ora Fiona
Thank you for your post. To date, we are currently testing and trialling the drone in key polluted environments such as Henderson Creek in the weekends. We believe that if we can reduce the rubbish and waste in the estuaries and waterways, we can help protect the harbour. Our drone has been performing really well, but its new design will allow it to turn on its own axis. This will be an important part of the design in dealing with some the tight environments we have been testing in and the waterways we follow up steam. Also going forward we saw the need to deal with microplastics in the waterways such as the issue of plastic pellets and broken down polystyrene. It is, for this reason, we are developing the skimmer/suction pump system that will filter these out. We have also tested our slightly earlier model " sensor-drone" with great results. We did this project with help from a water scientist from Waikato University. Whereby we were able to borrow their water quality sensors and incorporate them in our drone housing. This allowed as to search and detect pollutants and with the software they wrote for us communicate real-time data. We would ideally like to incorporate the features of this earlier design with our current design and purchase some of the scientific equipment required. Other needs that we would use the grant money for would be developing better communication and autopilot capability to deal with the difficult locations that the drone will operate in, this will require having to pay someone specialized in this area. Also, we would like to purchase a thermal imaging camera for the drone. This will increase its capacity to be operatable 24/7 and also allow better recognition for the operator (oil on water is far more detectable with thermal imaging, see attached pdf)



Many thanks and please feel free to ask any other questions

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Thermal imaging for oil spill detection

Reply

View all replies (2)

Susan Eady Oct 8, 2017

This provides an effective way to monitor waterways

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Thanks Susan for your support

Reply

Alan Read Oct 8, 2017

Getting around waterways etc can be a laborious chore and not being able to get close to the shore line. I see this as a practical way out, however, the netting system looks like it would fill quickly and having to be emptied regularly. Plastic bags might need a form of grabbing device. Keep up the great work!

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Hi Alan, Thank you for your post. The rubbish holding capacity of the drone is the equivalent too, 2 1/2 household bags of rubbish. However, our next model currently being constructed is larger. The robotic arm is a good idea and we have been thinking on similar lines with introducing a robotic arm to take water samples - so would be good to investigate other applications for an arm device.

Reply

Di Baker Oct 9, 2017

A brilliant idea, the beginning of multiple uses.

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Thanks for you kind encouragement,

Reply

Hala Suham AL Madfai Oct 9, 2017

This a brilliant way to walk into the future, this will open up so many other uses and industries

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Many thanks for your support

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

I worked as an emergency manager for a regional council and marine oil spill response was part of my role. I think this project has great potential and we could have used such drones for our deployment exercises. Have you approached Maritime New Zealand with this? And the key question that regional councils will be asking - how much does it cost? Can you provide a breakdown of what it would cost to construct, run and maintain?

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 9, 2017

Hi Jennifer
Thank you for your post. We have been working on this project for 5 years now and the Rena disaster was a key reason why we got interested in water drome technology. However, since then there has been 100's of other spills that have not been so much in the public eye. We see that this design-size is relative to the specific environment. Its current size is small enough to go between mangroves, under wharfs and around moorings, boats and can be deployed in minutes for' quick response'. However, the same design can be scaled larger to the size of catamaran sailing boat to deal with national emergencies, (or smaller drones networked together)

We ideally would like the opportunity to discuss our designs with Maritime NZ and councils and hopefully, do this once the final build is completed.

Because our work is still at prototype stage we have not defined our final costs, but we hope to keep these as low as possible as work is for 'social good". Due to the fact its battery powered and electric, the drone will have low running costs and low maintenance costs.

It would really informative for our design process if we can have contact with keys people who dealt directly with oil cleanups.

Once again thank you for the post and please lets us know if you have any other questions.

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 9, 2017

I would suggest that you involve the input of MNZ and regional councils in the process as soon as you can. It will help your design process and it will provide good feedback from people on the ground. I think it would be worth talking to the On scene commanders and oil spill managers from all the regional councils in NZ as they have hands on experience of responding to spills and using clean up equipment. It might save you a lot of time and money if you were to involve these parties sooner rather than later. I think collaboration is key.

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 10, 2017

MNZ also hold an annual Marine Oil Spill Forum which all the regional councils attend. It might be worth seeing if you can present your project at this event and hit all the regional councils at once? It would be a great opportunity to network.

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 12, 2017

Yes, we will defiantly consult with them during the design process for the next model.

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 12, 2017

Awesome. It's going to be a good year Andrew!

Reply

View all replies (5)

Sue Wake Oct 10, 2017

Well done on a fantastically innovative idea

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 10, 2017

Thank you :)

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 12, 2017

Hi Andrew. Have you done any trials around algae collection?

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 12, 2017

Hi Joanne, Yes we have tested the drone removing floating algae and it has performed very well using its existing cage system with a finer membrane. However, the next model will have a skimmer pump which would be better to support this application, as the boat only needs to get close to the algae for the suction pump to suck it in.
This will allow better removal closer inshore and within other restricted spaces. We are also keen to explore how the algae could be recycled to produce fertiliser /biofuel. We will be doing more trials in some of the waterways affected in the Waikato over the summer.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 12, 2017

Thanks for your reply. It is very interesting. How deep does the water need to be for the drone to operate?

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 12, 2017

The current boat has a draft of 8 cm the one in development will be similar. The airboat sensor drone we develop has even less and could go right over the top of heavy floating weed as it was air driven.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 12, 2017

Great, thanks for your reply. What you are doing is very exciting. Good on you!

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 13, 2017

thanks, we are very interested in what you guys are doing and would like to catch up at some stage

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 13, 2017

By the way are your sensors pressure rated at all? as we have been looking for a affordable sensor package to integrate onto a ROV that we have developed for water quality testing to depths of 150m. (please see attachment)

Reply

View all replies (6)

Becky Wilson Oct 13, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone

Reply

Gemma McGrath Oct 13, 2017

What an awesome idea! All the best with the awards Simon.

Reply

Dave West Oct 15, 2017

Kia ora Andrew, lots of potential. Have you considered how to deal with bycatch i.e. pelagic native fish? If mesh size is large enough it won't be a problem but if going for collecting smaller beads etc. it might occur. I look forward to your continued innovation in this area. Kia kaha, Dave

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 15, 2017

Kia ora Dave, really good comment, we have considered this as an issue and have installed underwater strobes at the front of the boat to deter fish. This is based on research that we have looked into that shows it to be an effective method of deterring fish. However going forward we are looking at other methods as well such as acoustic. Thanks for you comment.







Reply

Gemma McGrath Oct 15, 2017

Very cool initiative Andrew! All the best for your idea.

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 15, 2017

Thanks, and all the best for yours as well.

Reply

Share