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BeachBot Removes Cigarette Butts From the Beach

BeachBot Removes Cigarette Butts From the Beach


Meet BeachBot (BB), a mobile robot that finds and removes cigarette butts on the beach. Developed by Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart, the 2.5' wide robot uses artificial intelligence and its two gripper arms to find and pluck them out of the sand.

Afterward, the cigarette butts get deposited into an onboard safe bin for a human to throw out later.

TechTics and Delft University students, who used Microsoft’s Trove app to help the robot recognize cigarette butts based on images taken from people around the world, collaborated to develop the AI system. TechTics wants to collect 2,000 images via the Trove app. So far, it has obtained 200.

BB relies on machine learning to determine what sort of trash it must pick up. This technique prevents it from getting damaged by removing other objects, like shells.

On the plus side, BeachBot’s ML also helps it learn new litter, allowing it future proof itself. However, some space and power limitations make it difficult for the robot to progress in such a direction. To overcome this issue, BB uses hardware to run efficient implementations.

Additionally, BeachBot’s gripper must move in 3D space, which is assisted by a Cartesian movement system. This involves two motors mounted to the frame that controls movement in two directions (up/down and left/right).

The system alone provides stability due to the lightweight frame, light motors, low power consumption, and easy controllability. The stepper motors' main purpose is to drive the system, comprised of linear bearings and belts that slide on axels.

The motors serve as a holding torque to keep the gripper locked in place. BeachBot also contains folding bellows and lubrication to protect the linear components against sand and corrosion.

In its first demonstration, the robot picked up 10 cigarette butts in 30 minutes. To achieve this, it employs two mounted cameras, enabling BB to look forward and down. After locating a cigarette butt, its two gripper arms lower, push the sand together, grab the object, and place it into a composite bin, which is emptied by humans.

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