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ESTACA develops the first bio-inspired robot-turtle to fight against marine pollution

robot green turtle

On the occasion of the World Environment Day to take place on Friday, June 5th, ESTACA is presenting Green Turtle, the first bio-inspired robot-turtle designed to fight marine pollution. This unique robot, developed by the students at the engineering school specialising in new forms of mobility, is designed to effectively clean up port water. Its secret? Active underwater waste recognition technology and ergonomics adapted to the marine environment. This promising technology responds to a major ecological challenge at a time when 5,000 billion pieces of plastic waste are floating in our oceans.

Nature's positive revenge on pollution

To help in the effort to clean up the oceans, where more than 8 million tons of waste are dumped annually, ESTACA students have devised a bio-inspired technology that makes it possible to track waste in the aquatic environment. With its unique design that closely mirrors the physical characteristics of a turtle, the Green Turtle robot moves smoothly and agilely, perfectly suited to the mission of collecting moving waste. The students designed the device with the intention of installing it in ports to avoid any unwelcome contact with natural predators of the turtle, and even swimmers, while operating as close as possible to places where human pollution can be found.

Technological innovation at the heart of this environmental project

The technology developed by ESTACA students allows the robot-turtle to track waste in the aquatic environment and collect it in an intelligent, agile and energy-saving way. The size of the robot-turtle enables it to collect 50 litres of waste. It moves back and forth to a docking system where it spits out what it has collected, and then recharges before heading back out. An on-board sonar system is used to detect waste accurately, recognize it and collect it, once identified, without risk to the surrounding fauna. This active waste recognition and detection system is reflected in Green Turtle's slogan: “Against pollution, the best defence is attack.” The ergonomics to mimic a turtle's movements were both a major challenge for students and a guarantee of compatibility with the underwater environment.

Project-based learning to respond to current ecological challenges

Launched in September 2019 by the students of ESTACA's WAVE association, the Green Turtle project aims to propose a first functional prototype in the summer of 2021. Their design follows the project-based learning that lies at the heart of the school's educational model. By placing experimentation and practice at their heart, it allows students to experience directly the technical, technological and managerial requirements inherent in any engineering project.

As a school specialising in transport and new mobilities, ESTACA has placed the issues of environmental preservation and energy transition at the heart of its learning. For this reason, it encourages students to take part in today's ecological challenges, using their engineering expertise to benefit large-scale, eco-responsible projects. The Green Turtle project hosted by the association WAVE specialising in maritime transport, is one example of this. In 2019, the association built a cockpit powered by renewable energies which won the Solar and Energy Boat Challenge in Monaco.

 A prototype of an energy-efficient electric bicycle on the roads of France

As part of his thesis supervised by ESTACA and the Ampere laboratory in Lyon and financed by the company STEE in Orléans, Edgar TOURNON is developing a prototype of a hybrid recumbent bicycle, without chain and with solar panels. His goal: to produce his own electricity by pedalling and using the sun's energy, so there is no need to recharge his electric bike on the road! Edgar has designed a bike 30% lighter (light vehicle <50kg), which totally recyclable and has an unlimited range...

As part of the Sun Trip 2020, Edgar was supposed to take part in an international journey to Canton in China on his bike. Due to the pandemic, the Sun Trip has been reorganized around the theme "solar France & solidarity" and will be organized from 14th July to 9th August, starting in Lyon and arriving in Albertville (Savoie). On the program for Edgar Tournon: ascent of the Tourmalet, passing through Chambord, Blois, St Malo, Plouguerneau, Pau, Anduze…

A sportsman and scientist, Edgar Tournon has been working on his thesis at ESTACA'LAB for three years. He is conducting research into: “Optimal design of a mass-produced hybrid electric-assist bicycle using supercapacitors.”

The goal is to analyse and design a new generation of battery-free bicycles that run solely on human energy but allow the level of effort and fatigue to be controlled. The themes studied at ESTACA include vehicle energy management (efficiency, power transmission) but also the biomechanical aspects. What are the advantages of such a bicycle design for humans?

The brand U-feel developed by STEE is growing and plans to sell a new generation of bicycles that place minimum effort at the heart of its products. Supercapacitors can be used to replace the battery in certain configurations to create a much greener vehicle with an increased lifespan.
Edgar will be defending his thesis at the end of 2020.