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The Green Life: 3 Robots Built to Save the Planet

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November 12, 2013

3 Robots Built to Save the Planet

Robots built with the planet in mindIn most sci-fi movies, robots aren't out there saving the planet. But Hollywood doesn't always tell the whole story — robots can help people harness clean energy, plant forests, and clean up the environment.

Three of our favorite new technological innovations feature unique green applications and forward-thinking designs. Welcome to the future.

Inspired by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Protei is intended to be an efficient, oil-absorbing, ocean-cleaning robot. Funded by Kickstarter in 2011, Protei is an unmanned sailboat-like drone (the good kind) that can sail upwind across the trail of an oil spill via its innovative serpentine design. Powered by the wind, Protei drags a tail-like net through an oil spill, absorbing the contaminants with the precision only a robot could have, without subjecting humans to the dangers of the oil in the water. Most recently, the minds behind Protei sailed around the world for four months and expanded their dreams for Protei to include ridding the ocean of plastics, collecting oceanic samples for scientists, and monitoring radioactivity in the wake of Fukushima.


Solar Panel Duster
Solar panels need to be clean in order to operate at their full capacity, and cleaning them is a huge hassle for most solar farms and solar companies. But this little solar-panel-cleaning robot designed by Greenbiotics (which was recently acquired by SunPower, a major solar company) can clean solar panels quickly while using significantly less water than standard methods. With any luck, maybe this little guy can help usher in our solar revolution.


The Planter Bot
Imagined for the IF WE contest last year, this tree-planting robot was conceptualized by a Canadian design student to bring forests back to life. Unmanned and overseen by an operator, these little bots would swarm through clear cuts, replanting trees more efficiently than humans ever could. With forests constantly dwindling, these robotic Johnny Appleseeds could be our saviors.


--Photo by iStockphoto/PaulFleet

James RogersJames Rogers is an editorial intern at Sierra. He graduated from Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment, where he studied a combination of environmental studies and journalism. While at Western, he was the editor in chief of The Planet magazine, and he has written for Conservation Northwest QuarterlyPublic Eye Northwestand The Western Front.

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