A sign of things to come?
Beachgoers in Pinellas County may see something unusual if they take a beach day during the month of July. A large, electric robot known as 'BeBot' is to be deployed on 14 of the county's beaches and its job is to sift the top layer of sand, picking up small pieces of litter including cigarette buts, bottle caps and discarded chewing gum.
Fully electric, highly efficient
The fully electric, remote-controlled robot - about the size of a quad-bike - has been developed to gather litter from beaches that can often be left behind after a human litter-picker has passed by.
BeBot can apparently clean an area of sandy beach the size of a football field every hour, and with it being electric and having its own solar panels to generate power, it's environmentally friendly too.
Florida's beachgoers tend to take pride in clearing up after themselves, but there have been occasions this year when large volumes of visitors (during spring break for example) resulted in large-scale littering. If robots like BeBot were deployed more widely in future then it might just ensure that beaches remain in a generally cleaner state year-round.
Similarly, the recently signed law that gives local governments the power to ban smoking and vaping on Florida's beaches could reduce the amount of butts and other litter left on beaches. It's likely though that there'll still be litter for BeBot to pick up, regardless.
Robots taking over from humans?
The development of BeBot to gather garbage on the beach is another way that robots are being used to take over mundane jobs from humans. Automated robots have been used in cities like Miami for over a year now, to deliver take-out food that used to be delivered by human delivery drivers.
Autonomous vehicles (like those developed by Waymo) are also being used in states like Arizona to replace taxis with human drivers. The technology is still under development and in trials, but it demonstrates that in future we may see a lot more robots and automated vehicles around us.
For now, it will be interesting to see if BeBot results in cleaner beaches in Pinellas County!
Do you think Florida's beaches need more cleaning to remove litter? Would you be comfortable with an automated robot cleaning beaches around you? Let me know in the comments section below.