How the all-electric, self-driving Clearbot is helping to fight ocean plastic pollution in Asia

A Clearbot UAV

A few years ago, Sidhant Gupta, a sea lover, and Utkarsh Goel, a techie, visited Bali, Indonesia as part of their course at the University of Hong Kong. Angered by increasing plastic pollution in the archipelago’s oceans, a major contributor to global plastic pollution, the duo decided to use their engineering expertise to tackle it.

Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, of which around 14 million tons end up in the ocean every year. Plastic makes up 80 percent of all marine debris. Although many solutions are available to address this problem, they are grossly inadequate.

“Existing solutions are slow, with some communities still using pedalos and diesel-powered boats to scavenge trash. We realized that technologies like artificial intelligence could effectively address this problem.”

This prompted the duo to found Clearbot in 2019.

Clearbot is a remote-controlled vehicle designed for various tasks in the marine sector, including data collection, location monitoring, marine pollution cleaning, and goods delivery. Powered by an electric motor, it can complete these tasks without human intervention.

As an autonomous platform, Clearbot maps and cleans the ocean using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The AI ​​system allows operators to complete multiple tasks remotely.

The beauty of Clearbot lies in its simplicity as it can be easily deployed in any body of water without complex installation requirements. This makes the technology accessible to both governments and individuals, he says.

“Instead of hiring ten people to handle different things, hire one to service multiple Clearbots for different purposes. The Clearbots also provide you with valuable data within minutes – places visited, garbage collected and other custom information that is important to you,” explains founder Gupta.

Also Read: Alibaba Fund, Gobi, Earth VC Support AI-Powered All-Electric and Self-Driving Robot Clearbot

Gupta, a serial entrepreneur, aims to create the world’s first autonomous sea platform to map and clean the oceans and conserve marine life. In the past he built companies backed by Alibaba and Razer.

Goel, CTO, has an extensive background in AI, computer vision and deep learning, has run projects on campuses and developed open source tools for the data science and machine learning community.

A winner of multiple awards including the JUMPSTARTER 2022 Global Pitch Competition, Clearbots operates in India and Hong Kong and intends to soon expand to other Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

In India, the startup is piloting its services for the “Clean the Ganga” project. “We’re working with the government to provide an AI-based solution for cleaning up trash, collecting hyacinths, conducting surveillance and even moving goods soon,” adds Gupta.

How the all-electric, self-driving Clearbot is helping to fight ocean plastic pollution in Asia

(LR) Clearbot co-founders Utkarsh Goel and Sidhant Gupta

There is growing awareness of the dangers of climate change and the need to protect the oceans. This laid the foundation for the introduction of advanced technological solutions to combat these problems. “We believe that Clearbot can play a crucial role in solving these problems, especially in areas where traditional methods are impractical due to cost, human resources or lack of infrastructure,” he says.

Clearbots not only help prevent marine pollution, but also help reduce carbon emissions by eliminating the need for manual labor or fuel to power boats and AUVs. The product is fully electric and significantly reduces the carbon footprint compared to boats powered by fossil fuels.

Clearbot pricing varies based on location, existing infrastructure in the region, project scope, and duration of engagement.

“Since we offer our customers a tailor-made solution based on their specific requirements, we offer free consultations to understand their needs and provide a detailed proposal. Once a project is approved, we offer a detailed breakdown of costs, including hardware and hosting the platform on our cloud servers, billed monthly.”

From now on, the startup serves various customers from different industries, including real estate management, ministries and brands with sustainability goals. For these customers, it performs several services including pollution cleanup (i.e., collection of marine debris, oil, and hyacinths), monitoring and inspection, and delivery of goods.

His clients include Hong Kong Drainage Services Department, Hong Kong Highways Department, Sino, Kingspan and Modern Terminals.

Last month, Clearbot closed an undisclosed seed funding round with Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and Gobi Ventures, with participation from Earth Venture Capital, Asia Sustainability Angels and CarbonX Capital.

In his view, expanding operations is Clearbot’s top priority and biggest challenge. “We need to expand our team so that we can work more efficiently and keep up with international demand. To that end, we recently raised funds that will help continue to grow our business with more time and resources to create an easy-to-deploy and sustainable platform to solve the most pressing issues facing our oceans today.”

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