- Clean Earth Rovers (CER) was seeking a solution to transform its assembly of marine vessels into a connected, autonomous fleet from a single, secure access point
- Cloud Ground Control (CGC) enabled CER customers to automate missions from a remote web browser, with no technical skills required
- CGC was selected for its user-oriented command and control solution, comprising rich features such as live-streamed telemetry data and cloud storage
- CGC’s ease of integration and flexibility in co-developing an API to support project requirements made it an ideal choice for CER
- Leveraging CGC enabled CER to accelerate its time to market and onboard major customers
Clean Earth Rover (CER)
Clean Earth Rovers (CER) strives to develop best-in-class solutions to combat water pollution. In its commitment to drive ocean impact, CER provides innovative technologies that enable customers to remove pollutants from fragile ecosystems, improving the quality of life for all.
The Ocean Imperative
Our oceans have been subject to long-term neglect. According to UNESCO, plastic waste alone (est. 50-75 trillion pieces) accounts for 80 per cent of marine pollution. Without healthy oceans, the future of all species, both above and below the water, are in dire risk.
However, the outlook is not all bleak. Humanity’s poor track record of ocean and waterway stewardship is widely acknowledged and change is underway. Around the world, creative thinkers and innovative designers are expediting solutions to clean up our world’s oceans.
Michael Arens, co-founder and CEO of Clean Earth Rovers (CER), is one such innovator. In 2019, Michael and his team launched CER with the goal to design, build and deploy autonomous uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) in near-shore waters to efficiently remove waterborne rubbish and debris. In 2022, they launched The Rover AVPro , which has been well received among their customers, including environmentalists, coastal businesses, tourism boards, fisheries, government, and civilian waterway users.
The challenge: Monitoring and controlling fleets of ocean-cleaning robots easily, safely and efficiently
Current methods of ocean cleanup operations can be expensive, dangerous and ineffective, as well as largely manual. Designed to overcome these issues, the AVPro rover is a cost-effective, safe and autonomous cleanup tool.
Motivated by the sheer scale of the problem and desire to expedite ocean conservation for their diverse customer base, CER recognised the need to integrate their vehicles with a fleet management platform – one that is easily accessible, simple to use, and robotic-agnostic. In addition, it needed to leverage cellular networks, and be unrestricted by geography.
The Solution: Cloud Ground Control offers accessibility, scalability and easy operation
After much research, Arens and his team identified Cloud Ground Control (CGC) as the ideal solution. Developed by Advanced Navigation, CGC is a cloud-based command and control solution providing full remote visibility for uncrewed vehicles via a web browser.
Connecting each rover to the CGC platform was effortless, thanks to CGConnect, a credit card-sized, plug-and-play micro-modem that operates on 4G/5G cellular networks. With CGConnect, CER could link all of their rovers to CGC, gaining direct access to the platform’s real-time telemetry, cloud storage, video streaming and payload data features.
Being robotic-agnostic, CGConnect provided CER with the flexibility to change telecom providers or adopt additional hardware without having to re-engineer their solution.
“CGConnect, a credit-card sized plug-and-play cellular micro-modem”
The Result: A cost-effective autonomous fleet that elevates ocean cleaning
Clean Earth Rovers found that Cloud Ground Control delivered a cost-effective and safe solution that made cleaning the ocean and waterways faster and simpler than previously possible.
Most critically, the CGC platform provided the missing link CER needed to optimise their solution: the capability to enable any authorised person with an Internet-connected device to remotely deploy, monitor and control multiple rovers. This ensued a multitude of positive outcomes.
- Greater transparency and situational awareness
- CGC enabled CER’ customers to peer through the lens of multiple UAVs at once and take command of their fleet via a web browser displaying a grid of real-time video streams directly from the vehicles.
“You log in from your browser. You have access to the vehicle. You can see what it’s doing. You can control it. It’s just that simple,” says Michael Arens, CEO and Founder, Clean Earth Rovers.
- The CGC platform provided not only real-time monitoring, but also data analytics and automated operations management, making it easier to streamline operations and coordinate the fleet of rovers, especially in vulnerable areas that pose risks to humans. Altogether, this allows operators to make more informed decisions in the midst of a disaster, whilst ensuring their own safety.
“Cloud Ground Control platform provides real-time monitoring for automated operations management”
- Mission planning made easier
- With CGC and CGConnect, missions could be planned and monitored using the point-and-point, map-based interface. To set up a mission, users simply need to click on the map and draw coordinates of a polygon. A GPS positioning module on-board tracks location during the mission to ensure that the vehicle follows the correct path and remains within mission parameters. The positioning module connects to the CGC platform through the CGConnect modem, so operators know exactly where each rover is at all times. In addition to this, CGC can also save pre-planned missions in the cloud, which can be deployed at any time to any vehicle from any device.
“Cloud Ground Control provides simple mission planning through a web browser”
- Faster response times and better decision-making
- Accessibility to real-time video and telemetry data translated into faster response times and better coordination and decision-making. For example, each rover is equipped with a LiDAR scanner, used for object detection and collision avoidance. Data from the LiDAR scanner is analysed by the rover’s control module and, in the event of mission path obstruction, communicates this through CGC to operators. The operator can then choose to abort the mission or assume manual control to avoid the obstruction and continue the mission. This high level of cross-platform functionality is made possible through the CGC API that allows third-party developers such as Clean Earth Rovers to customise the solution to meet their unique needs.
- A safe and secure process
- As no additional devices are required beyond a smartphone, tablet or computer, CGC removed the need for additional outlays. Furthermore, CGC employs military-grade, end-to-end encryption and security practices, safeguarding customer data from threats and security breaches.
- Pioneering The Future of Ocean Cleaning
- The Clean Earth Rovers team has conducted extensive tests and trials in and around marinas, port facilities, and other nearshore pollution zones along the US coastline – all of which have generated positive results.
“Our clients recognise our rovers as a tool for saving them money, cutting down on equipment costs, cutting down on labour costs, and cutting down on their operating risks,” says Arens.
- Always looking to push the boundaries, CER is pursuing additional use cases for their rovers. For example, in the event of an oil spill, the rovers can be equipped with oil absorbent materials, enabling them to rapidly clean large areas of water in an orchestrated manner. Other use cases include clearing affected marine life following an algal bloom, or removing ocean debris following a hurricane or cyclone. Further applications span remote surveys of offshore wind turbines to the inspection of energy infrastructure to marine life monitoring.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to reiterate that cleanup operations require extensive coordination between numerous stakeholders on a massive scale. Resources required to respond to disasters are vast – petrol-fueled boats, crews of people, hazmat gear, PPE, costly public liability insurance and personal health cover, to name a few.
The integration of CGC with CER’s rovers enabled better communication between operators and central command, all while dedicating fewer resources, minimising risk to first responders and lowering overall operational costs that would otherwise incur in traditional cleanup efforts.
Arens sums up what he sees as the future of the Clean Earth Rover concept:
“We see ourselves as becoming leaders in automation for coastal pollution and waterways management. We are confident that our robotic drone-based cleaning as a service model will prove highly beneficial for general marine cleanup, oil spill removal, remediation after harmful algae bloom, or whatever the case may be.”
Adoption of autonomous command and control technology to monitor and clean our oceans will remove plastic, rubbish, waterborne oil and other chemicals that threaten marine wildlife. The Clean Earth Rovers initiative is one of many around the world that we truly hope will help to create clean, healthy and thriving oceans.
Cloud Ground Control
Developed by Advanced Navigation, Cloud Ground Control (CGC) is a revolutionary cloud-based command and control solution for uncrewed vehicles.
The platform allows pilots and mission planners to remotely command and control a swarm of uncrewed vehicles across air, land and sea via a web browser. By enabling real-time video feed and telemetry, and easy access and management of data, CGC provides fully remote visibility to optimise situational awareness.