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New electric, autonomous robot vacuums trash, debris from Bay Area waterways like a plastic piranha

Autonomous, robot vacuums debris from Bay Area waterways like a plastic piranha
Autonomous robot vacuums debris from Bay Area waterways like a plastic piranha 03:22

RICHMOND (KPIX) -- There is a high-tech solution to a major environmental problem: Trash in our oceans.

Michael Arens believes he has the solution. He is the founder and CEO of Clean Earth Rovers.

Clean Earth Rovers are electric, autonomous robots. Arens said his robots act just like a roomba vacuum for our waterways.

"I love this marina," said Daryl Henline, Point San Pablo Harbor Master and Co-Owner. "It's my home. It's not a job. It's a lifestyle, really."

Henline is the harbor master and co-owner of Point San Pablo Harbor. He feels passionate about keeping his harbor and his planet clean.

"Marina owners can do their part by trying to keep plastics out of the water column at the source," said Henline. "That's all we're trying to do, to just try to help in that effort.

Every year, 11 million tons of plastic and debris enter the world's oceans, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Out of that, reports say 6.6 million tons of debris stay circulating within our coastal waterways and beaches.

This is where Arens' Clean Earth Rovers sweep in.

"I remember even at a very young age being passionate about pollution and climate change, but it wasn't until I was older that I learned about the ocean plastics issue," said Arens.

His robots can operate autonomously or with a joystick, skimming the surface of marinas and coastal waterways to collect 100 pounds of trash and debris per trip. The recycled, mesh collection bags have large enough holes, so small marine life won't get trapped inside. It's also battery powered, so 100% electric, using obstacle avoidance software to steer clear of boaters and marine life.

"We hope to be in as many marinas as possible and to make this as widespread and mainstream as a roomba would be vacuuming your living room," said Arens. "The more devices we have, the more strength in numbers we have in solving this massive issue."

The Clean Earth Rover will stay in the Point San Pablo Harbor for three months. Arens said the plan is to keep one rover in the Bay Area. Clean Earth Rovers will launch another robot in New York in the Hudson River next month.

Clean Earth Rovers can also collect ocean data like water temperature, pH levels, conductivity and salinity, dissolved oxygen, oxygen reduction potential (ORP), turbidity which is how clear the water is and how much bacteria the water has.

With this valuable information, dangerous algal blooms can be predicted even before they form.

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