Robot dreams for a cleaner river

Robot dreams for a cleaner river

By OUR CORRESPONDENT | | 3 August, 2015
The RO-BOAT in action.
The level of pollutants in the Yamuna has risen exponentially in the last decade or so. Things have come to such a pass that it isn’t humanly possible to clean this river anymore. So it makes great sense to get the robots involved in this task, right? Actually, a Delhi-based tech firm, Omnipresent Robot Tech, is trying to do just that. The device, now undergoing trial runs in the Yamuna, has been christened the RO-BOAT, and it’s been programmed to pick up all kinds of solid waste floating on the river’s surface.
 The “unmanned vehicle” can navigate through the river, all the while collecting bits of surface debris using a “robotic arm” attached to its front. 
There are three kinds of pollutants usually found in river water — chemical effluent, submerged waste, and floating debris. And a machine like the RO-BOAT is ideal for treating the latter. 
“We were already making several kinds of robots in our firm, but we thought this time we should make something that can clean the river,” said Aakash Sinha, CEO and founder of Omnipresent Robot Tech.  
Representatives of Sinha’s firm are now in talks with senior officials of the Delhi government about possible full-scale implementation of this project in the Yamuna. “Both the river cleaning ministry and the Delhi government have shown interest. And it is likely that we’ll get a pilot project from one of these. Technology-wise we are ready to put this on the ground,” Sinha said. 
This is the age of smart technology, and the RO-BOAT is no exception. The device can act autonomously once it is programmed to trace specific routes on the river by making use of GPS technology for navigation. Also, with an average load-carrying capacity of 15 kg, a RO-BOAT would be capable of cleaning some 600 kg of surface waste from the river in one day.  
The project engineers suggest that around 50 such devices would suffice to clean the river in about six months. Ravish Rawal, a mechanical engineering student from Columbia University who is part of the RO-BOAT design team, said that plans are on to further scale up the  device, so that it accommodates higher payloads. “A large part of why the Yamuna isn’t getting any better is that it can’t self-purify anymore. And it’s all this trash that prevents it from flowing like a river. Our estimate is that with a device like the RO-BOAT, we’ll be able to clean up around 200 tonnes of the river’s waste in one year,” he said. 

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