Robot Missions Developing Robot Platform, Cleaning Toronto Island is crowdfunding a robot platform designed to remove plastic debris from shorelines and

Erin Kennedy and her team at Robot Missions are developing a robotics platform to aid in shoreline cleanup. Collecting five kilograms of plastic debris is the goal for the current Mission Pilot for the robot. Robot Missions is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a fleet of its current Shore Cleaning prototype.

The goals of the project are to make shoreline cleanup faster and reach remote locations that are inaccessible to humans. Several field tests are scheduled between April 1 and August 6 to understand how the current prototype works collecting plastic debris and traversing the terrain of Toronto Island. The current prototype has a tilt drive system to shift its center of gravity, multiple arm configurations that can check soil moisture or pick up debris, and uses XBee communication.

Future vision for the robotics platform includes collection mechanisms to pick up smaller pieces of already degraded plastic, modular wheel mounts to travel over any terrain, an array of sensors, and a hopper unit to hold up to one kilogram of plastic. The team hopes to release the platform as open source hardware and encourage others to build robots and clean up their local shoreline.

Robot Missions’ large overarching goal is to ‘enable makers and humanitarians to collaborate on improving the environment through community driven missions.’ This specific project hopes to build a fleet of robots that can autonomously travel along shorelines and remove debris.

Erin Kennedy has already made a name for herself by founding Robot Party, a Google+ hangout with over a million users, and previous crowdfunding experience through indiegogo. This project is a great example of young makers and engineers working to promote environmental stewardship through engineering and robotics. They’ve also aligned themselves to UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land and the Great Candian Shoreline Cleanup through the World Wildlife Federation. 

Crowdfunding campaigns that inspire me the most are usually projects like this where the team isn’t pre-selling a product but instead seeking financial backing for a large scale engineering project. Robot Missions has the added bonus of being young engineers tying robotics and sustainability into their project. The Kickstarter campaign ends on June 6, 2016.