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Taiwan opts for Azure Fighters – floating vacuum machines to clean up its waters

Who will clean up the trash from oceans? (Photo: IANS)

A Taiwanese environmental group has designed a marine vacuum cleaner to help in the island's fight against marine garbage. Nicknamed the 'Azure Fighter', the boat scoops up trash floating around the island nation's beaches and harbours.

Currently, a prototype of the remote-controlled catamaran can be seen picking up garbage–tetra packs, plastics and polythene, cans, PET bottles–from fishing harbours and marinas. In fact, anything that is seen floating is picked up by the boat.

With a length of just 5 metres, the Azure Fighter is highly mobile, darting in and out of Taiwan's harbours, picking up trash. Currently, it has the capacity to collect 70 kg rubbish each day.

The small but versatile boat is the brainchild of three Taiwanese women who formed Azure Alliance to understand how Taiwan's harbours tackle trash. CEO Chen Szu-ying, secretary-­general Tseng Yu-ting, and head of operations Yen Hsiang-lin put their heads together to understand the nature and cycle as well as the quantity of trash in the country's harbours.

The trio did a survey by observing the harbours, understanding waste-management systems in place and also by speaking with various people including fishermen to see how each individual and organisation was dealing with trash at the harbours.

They realised that the fishermen were simply bringing the trash to the shore and dumping it somewhere on the land. They also found that much of the trash around their harbours was coming from elsewhere.

Currently, the boat has a power source, a water hose to clean the device after work, a ramp to drop the boat into the ocean and a strong WiFi to control it remotely.

Currently, the team is researching the kind and quantum of trash around their harbours. During their surveys, the team found that different seasons bring different kinds of trash.

The team is simultaneously working on improving their hi-tech boat. They plan to add artificial intelligence (AI) in the upgraded versions. With the AI they hope the boat can itself locate the garbage according to the change in season.

The group has exploited the Internet of Things (IOT) and linked up various computers to ensure that all of these different platforms come together to enable a single person to manage harbour clean-up using two to three different boats.

The group is also looking at creating tie-ups with different organisations and agencies to popularise the concept. The final plan is to make the boat available in each of Taiwan's harbours so that these boats can operate themselves and automatically clean up the harbours with little manual intervention. 

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