This beach-cleaning robot is a Roomba for sand

The solar-powered BeBot collects tiny particles of plastic and other debris.

A beach-cleaning robot called BeBot is sifting through sand in South Florida, extracting cigarette butts, plastic debris, and other trash too small for traditional systems to collect.

The challenge: Debris does more than just take away from the beauty of beaches — it can also harm wildlife, impact public health, and even hurt the economy. 

It’s much faster to clear trash from a beach using a machine than by hand, but the most commonly used devices are towed by diesel or gas-powered tractors, which produce climate-harming emissions.

Those tractors can also damage marine wildlife and contribute to beach erosion, and the devices they pull can typically only sift the top inch or two of sand and may miss very small pieces of debris.

The beach-cleaning BeBot: Marine tech manufacturer Poralu Marine has now partnered with the company 4ocean to create BeBot, a fully electric beach-cleaning robot.

In one hour, BeBot can clear about 32,000 square feet of beach.

BeBot’s sifter digs nearly 4 inches down into the sand, collecting pieces of debris smaller than the average dice. Solar panels help power the robot, which is much smaller than a tractor, so it’s not as likely to harm the environment. 

In one hour, BeBot can clear about 32,000 square feet of beach — but cleaning isn’t the robot’s only skill. 

BeBot can also tow up to 900 pounds once its sifter is detached, which could be useful for moving beach chairs, jet skis, and other heavy objects. It also has a rake accessory that can be used to level sand or move seaweed and algae.

The cold water: BeBot doesn’t only pull garbage from sand — it also collects rocks, shells, and organic material that you actually want on a beach.

That means someone needs to manually sort through the debris collected by the bot, leaving the good stuff on the beach, recycling the plastic, and trashing the trash.

BeBot is also remote controlled, meaning someone has to be available to operate it at all times (unlike an autonomous beach-cleaning robot currently being trained to spot cigarette butts in the Netherlands).

There is an upside to having a human operator working with BeBot, though: they can make sure the robot doesn’t inadvertently disturb any vegetation or wildlife while on clean-up duty.

On the agenda: 4ocean is currently testing BeBot on beaches in South Florida and plans to deploy one of the machines in Hawaii soon. 

BeBot is currently available for purchase, but it’s not clear how much it costs — 4ocean advises people to reach out via its website if they’re interested in acquiring one of the beach-cleaning bots. 

We’d love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Related
Playing sea soundscapes can summon thousands of baby oysters – and help regrow oyster reefs
Researchers amplified the natural sounds of the sea through underwater speakers to draw baby oysters to swim to the location.
“Robot rooms” could be the future of homes and offices 
Integrating robots into walls, ceilings, furniture, and appliances could radically change our indoor spaces.
Medical robot to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield 
A VR-controlled medical triage robot is being built to help trained techs attend to injured soldiers on the battlefield.
A new material called a mechanical neural network can learn and change its physical properties
The new material’s architecture is based on that of an artificial neural network – layers of interconnected nodes that can learn to do tasks.
Chinese robot helps convert moon dust into fuel and oxygen 
Chinese researchers have built an autonomous robot to set up an ISRU system for converting lunar soil into fuel and oxygen.
Up Next
rice plants
Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories