Switzerland -based Grove Boats has over 20 years of experience in developing solar electric boats that are mainly aimed at passenger carrying requirements in inland waterways and harbours.
Last year the company extended its range by offering a solar powered debris recovery vessel for operating in harbours and now they have developed an even smaller concept, an unmanned debris recovery vessel.
This drone, called the Mini-E Cleaner is a small catamaran vessel just 1.20 metres long. It is self-powered by electric motors and has a debris recovery net and it is designed to operate in small spaces such as between boats in a marina or moorings in a harbour where conventional recovery craft might find it difficult to operate. This small and remotely operated craft can controlled from an accompanying boat or from the shore and it is small enough to be easily carried by one person.
The cataraman hull comprises two plastic tubular sponsons with up-turned ends. The beam id 0.85 metres so it has good stability and the control and battery box is mounted on arched cross members that raise it well clear of the water. Attached to this battery box is the recovery net that is hinged at its top with an arm extending upwards that can be operated remotely via a electric/hydraulic piston. The circular recovery net extends into the water to collect any debris between the hull sponsons and can be lifted up clear of the water for manual recovery of the debris.
The catamaran is powered by a pair of electric pod drives attached below the sponsons. These pod drive each produce 350 watts and the lithium ion batteries give the units a 2 hour autonomy before re-charging is required. The wide spacing of the drive units allows excellent control and manoeuvrability within the draft of just 0.2 metres and steering is by means of varying the thrust from the pods.
The complete unit weighs just 12 kg and it comes supplied with a carrying box that has a solar panel on its top. This solar panel allows adequate charging to re-power the battery over a short period but re-charging is also possible from shore power points.
The Mini-E Cleaner is silent in operation and requires minimal maintenance. It operates with no emissions and so is suitable for use in sensitive water areas with particular reference to marinas and congested dock areas.
By Dag Pike
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