How This Oceanic Robotic Drone Will Clean Up Oil Spills

After sailing more than 40 thousand nautical kilometers and into 14 countries on Unreasonable at Sea, we ported in Spain for our culminating event. The technology companies who sailed around the world with us had 6 minutes to share the story of their company to hundreds of people packed into an auditorium in Barcelona. This is one of those talks.

The entrepreneurs in this video are Gabriella Levine & Cesar Harada of Protei – Ocean Drones For Oil Spills.

Company Description in 100 Words or Less

The ocean covers more than 70% of the surface of our planet and yet remains largely unexplored. Our water is filling up with plastic debris, radioactive material, oil spills, and industrial and agricultural run-offs. Even if we stopped producing plastic now, plastic debris would continue to break down and accumulate in the ocean for the next 50 years.

What if we were capable of deploying sailing robots anywhere, anytime in the ocean?  Tweet This Quote

Protei is a durable, wind-powered solution to remediate such problems. The team has created a shape-shifting sailing robot that is unprecedentedly robust, agile, and powerful and used to sense and clean the ocean. It will be used to clean up oil spills and plastic in the ocean, as well as collect invaluable data about our environment. In order to grow rapidly, they’ve developed Protei Open Hardware – a plug and play sailing robot fleet, which can be Android-operated and remotely controlled via a simple web browser from a PC, laptop or mobile device. Visit company website

Major Milestones

  • Fundraised $30,000 from Kickstarter.
  • Launched open source hardware.
  • Developed over 10 generations of prototypes.

About the author

Unreasonable Media

Unreasonable Media

As a company, Unreasonable Media is dedicated to leveraging the power of stories to shift paradigms and solve problems. That's why we have made almost all the videos you see on this site. Long story short, we are not your average production company. Visit our site to see for yourself.

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  • As we announced in Barcelona, we have decided to move to Hong Kong, and we did. We have been here for 6 months and just completed building our headquarters office and our R&D facility from scratch. We are now – as we have always – prototyping and we are preparing to manufacture our sailing robots. I cannot explain how excited we are to share our recent years of research and development. You will soon see our new team, pictures of our facility and our newest prototypes. We are also working on a new collaborative website, that is merging social media and online R&D in what we call “Social R&D”.

    This sunday Feb 16th, we are organizing a sailing robot hackathon in Hong Kong, the energy is amazing here, you want to join :
    This was our last Hackathon in Morocco : http://www

    In April we will participate the Shenzhen Makerfaire. Shenzhen has been renamed the “Hollywood for makers”, endless electronics markets, everybody is a maker, an engineer, a hacker.

    We are so grateful for that the Unreasonable at Sea allowed us to visit the major ports of the world and confirm our bold choices. Everything feels right. Protei is coming out soon. Cesar HARADA

  • This is crazy awesome! I think many people don’t realize how important the oceans are to our everyday lives. We need the sea creatures, and the sea creatures need us to keep their waters clean and safe. People also use the waters for recreation. I think this is an incredible idea but I would challenge the creators to this question, “Will sea life be affected by these boats?” “Will sea creatures who rise to the surface be injured by the boats?”

  • Color me impressed, this is the kind of innovative business designs the world needs! It’s also a successful business on its own, it got funded by kickstarter, produced a quality and innovative product, and is now seeking partners to help fund the business further and discover new partners as well. What’s so great about these boat is that they’re assessing a HUGE problem in our world today, and companies such as BP should be buying these by the hundreds since it would help clean up their image, and clean up their mess.

  • Wow, I love hearing about inventions such as this one! Innovation will be key in the years to come as we begin to embark on the long journey of recovering our environment. Industrialization has fueled progress in so many areas of human life, but so far it hasn’t been without consequences. The next step in technological evolution will require taking accountability for our impact on the planet and innovative products such as this one will drive the future of ecological sustainability!

  • This seems like a cool process that is going to occur. I dont too much know about oil spills and such or particularly interesed but this is interesting because I have heard this being a huge thing in the world sometimes. I would ask the author is the cost of many of these to be produced a huge problem or can it be done?

  • Well, I think this is an awesome innovation. Nowadays, it is very difficult to innovate, but I must agree that this is a very great invention. I love eating fish, but the fish has been affected by the radiation and poison. Thus, I think it is necessary for us to keep our earth clean and healthy especially our ocean.

  • Thank you for sharing the post and this is very innovative invention. I agree we need to clean our ocean because I felt that ocean is a big part of earth. Cleaning ocean is very difficult because it is a vast part of earth and it is very deep to clean all of the pollution. I hope this invention can help clean the earth and keep it clean!

  • What a great invention. It is amazing what can be done when people decide to share their work with others. A large part of why this company has been so successful is because they chose to utilized open source software.
    Another important piece of this business is that it has the potential to become profitable, rather than simply being a device that needs to be funded in order to work. This company has been able to accomplish the difficult task of protecting the environment and developing a potentially profitable business.

  • Thanks for sharing this video. I have multiple feeling about this video though! In the perfect ocean setting I think this would be a great idea. But how durable are these boats. We know that the sea is a very dangerous place for normal sized boats with waves and such reaching godly heights, do these boats have the ability to prevent flipping over and potentially sinking? I’d like to hear more about this product before i was completely on board as to say, but overall great starting idea to help prevent and control spills in our oceans!

  • Hi Jennifer. Thanks a lot for rising these important questions. Sea life is affected by everything that enters their habitat.

    Our robots are wind powered and small, which means they are silent compared to most other human made machines in the oceans. In fact several ocean conservationists, in particular 2 administrators of natural reserves expressed interest in Protei for this particular reason.

    About injury, flexible sailing boats moving at low speed are unlikely to hurt sea creatures.

    The way we are designing Protei is in fact very inspired from sea creatures. I am very looking forward to see how Protei would be perceived by sea creatures.

  • Hi DrivenBySuccess! I love your name. I believe it can be done. The cost of these depends on what we decide to ship. We have reached a point the technology is not mature yet to fulfill extended missions in the open sea, but the technology is simple enough to be manufactured as a “beta product”. This is a brand new technology and we do not dare to think a second we have all the answers. Instead we want to ship early and work with our early adopters to make this technology better and better, version after version.

    Our first version of Protei as a product will be small, and with humble performances. We will grow in quality, control, endurance, payload, size, materials etc gradually, with our community.

  • Hi Drew. You are absolutely right. I was sailing just 2 days ago and my dinghie (laser) tipped over 3 times – I was having too much fun I guess 🙂
    The small version of Protei we are working on now (1m long) becomes unusable above Beaufort Force 3. Although I must say we have worked on larger machines ; Protei_006 could handle Beaufort Force 5, with moderate wave height. We have fairly well documented our work here back then :

    This is only the beginning of a great adventure for ocean sciences using wind powered surface vessels. I think of it as the conquest of the sky, namely the birth of aviation. Someone will manage someday. Maybe it will not be someone, it will be many people – that’s my wish. Maybe it will be us, maybe someone else, but we all share the excitement of autonomous sailing, and feel a great deal of responsibilities in front of the challenges we face together.

    🙂 I don’t ask you to get on board – your skepticism is so valuable to us – thank you for it.

  • I love that you are not only innovating technology, but that you are also innovating the way people work together. I’m sure this invention will be successful because we need to keep our oceans clean. Good luck in Hong Kong!

  • I think to innovate you need to have an original idea, an idea that other people has not discovered. Nowadays people already invent or discover most of the idea. That’s why I think it is difficult to innovate.

  • I’ve actually heard of this idea way before I came across this article/video(the wave glider). The amazing things technology and great minds can do is endless. This invention is going to even be more effective and hopefully begin to solve a crucial problem in our world today. It also amazes me that the idea started off with a kick starter. I love the fact that an idea can bring people together to execute a plan in order to fight for a cause.

  • I hope the products are the same as it was described. The products should succeed if it gets promoted very well. Also, since it is much cheaper and more efficient compared to the fishing boats that are commonly used to clean up the oil spills.

  • This is a really cool and useful invention. I really like how the robot boat is made. I think it’s cool how these boats bend in order to turn. With not having much of a background about the ocean and oil spills, I don’t know how important these can really be. It seams smart to have these boats to take data from the ocean so that a normal sized boat does not have to waist time and money to get them. My question is how good are these robot boats? are they and good as they look? Will they really help with oil spills.

  • Mind blowing. Since the BP oil spill in 2010, there has been several ecosystems destroyed due to this accident. It has been almost four years since the spill and everything is still not corrected. With the rapid decline of one of natural resources (water) we need to act fast. What I would like to know is why has it taken so long for someone to come up with this? It seems as though our government has its focus on other things but to ensure we have water for the next 50 years is not one of them. I am glad that I have learned so much through my courses about the environment and how I can help. It may not be an invention like this but at least I started somewhere. As always, it just takes one individual to make things better for other. Thank you for caring about us!

  • I’m amazed by their engeneering of such an important device for cleaning up the damage that has been done from such impactful natural and man-made disasters in our ocean waters. I’m truly impressed by their mission.

  • Wonderful idea! I like how this project was made to be an open source project so people all over the world can join in and contribute in the creation of the product. Open source project can really speed up the production of the final product as well as reducing the cost. It is good to see that there are many innovations such as this Protei fleet that are being used to clean up our earth. I hope that this company will succeed and expand in the future.

  • This invention is an amazing break through for science. The fact that this technology is already out in the public that can help clean up and manage and catastrophes such as the BP oil spill and the radioactive material leaking in the water is invaluable to the world. What I didn’t understand is how is this actually going to remove the waste products from the water? All I could tell was that the robot would sense the waste products but not have anything to do with them in terms of removing them.

  • This is a brilliant idea! How hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before? I am a big boater and fisherman, so polluted water has always been a worry of mine. This is a very cool and efficient way for us to clean up our most needed resource. Only problem I could see with this technology is harming fish and other animals in the water. Is there a safety mechanism for surfacing fish or birds on top of the water that are stuck in the oil? The safety of animals and the cost of these things is the only problem I could see with this plan.

  • This looks to be a great idea, it could not only save humans ans animals but money as well and it seems that the design and mechanics has some popular interests for a number of people to contribute. I am a bit confused on the process or programming of the boat though. I understand that it can record data of measurements of things in the water like oil or plastics but can it also physically help clean up the oil and plastics as well or is it only collecting data of how much exactly is on the surface as well as below?

  • This is an incredible invention that is especially close to my heart, as I am an avid fisherman and wildlife learner. The recent oil spills were devastating to oceans as we know them. This new sailboat can help to clean, measure, and examine these spills without endangering people or using energy and money that would normally be required to perform these tasks. I hope that this idea takes off and we are able to use them to improve our quality of life in and around the oceans!

  • I’ve found that when you look hard enough.. there are millions of inventions and innovations in everyday life just waiting to be discovered. It may be an optimistic lens, but every problem that exists today in my mind warrants an innovation to solve it =)

  • I love reading about certain things like this. The environment is so important, and as a species I feel as if our priories are starting to sway in the wrong direction. The amount of plastic and debris that is building up in our water systems is absolutely disgusting. It is so unfortunate that it has gotten to the point where these types of inventions have become necessary, however I am amazed by the advances that are occurring in science that allow these inventions to be a possibility. I am curious as to what road blocks you have found on the way? Are there any kinks that still need to be worked out?

  • This looks like it could really do a lot of good, my question is, how do you keep this type of technology out of the wrong hands? I love the idea of using it to clean up oil spills. It would have been interesting to actually see a demonstration of the boats cleaning up the oil and/ or plastic. The great part about the founders is that they are sharing the technology with others so that it can be added onto or perfected.

  • Wow this technology could really save the animals and the
    ocean! I love how it started with one design and the boat keeps getting better
    with everyone working together to improve it. I never knew plastic as become a
    huge issue in the oceans but hopefully this boat will help improve upon that
    and the many different things that are polluting our oceans and endangering our
    animals. I wish there could have been a demonstration on how the boat cleans up
    oil spills or takes the radioactive pollution out of the water. I don’t see how
    a little boat could clean up thousands of gallons of oil that is spilled in the
    ocean. This was a great article and I always enjoy learning about new
    technology that can improve our earth. Thanks!

  • Amazing innovation! Even though the product is still new and still have some flaws, the idea is brilliant. I can see this project success is near. We need these kind of products in our life.

  • This looks good. However, I’m corned if some will steal those boats when thousands of them are deployed. Do they have any plan to protect those boats from poor sailors and fishermen?

  • Thanks for sharing this! This is an awesome option to help with theses oil spills. Just from watching videos on oil spills I have seen how destructive they can be. I would ask the author will there ever be bigger versions of the Protei?

  • Thanks for sharing this! This is a truly brilliant technology that could do wonders in the future.The only thing I did not understand was how is this product going to actually remove waste? I understand that it can sense things in the water but just wondering how or if it will be removing anything?

  • I think this is a great way to think green and help better the environment and this world as a whole! As a global community we all need to think of ways to help keep this place we live in as clean as possible because who knows what could happen to the Earth in the future.

  • This is a really cool invention. This could be a great device for monitoring our oceans in the future. Technology is changing so rapidly it is amazing what people are developing next. I love seeing devices that can help us improve the environment. Our oceans are very important to us and when we are constantly having pollution and oil spills its sad to see it going down the drain. It’s great that their are people out their that really care about our environment and the health of every individual. A question I would want to ask the author is how affordable are these devices going to be? Are they going to be readily available or a device that can only be used by a few? Hope to see these products being used in the future.

  • Thank you for sharing this article! It is truly eye opening to see what can be done with simply an idea for change. It is also crazy to think that much of the ocean is still unexplored. This seems like an impressive process to help with oil spills, as they are clearly a big problem in the ocean. I’m wondering the estimated cost of completing this process, and if it really can be accomplished?

  • This is an awesome invention, I think it would make a big change for the animals. I hate seeing the animals and their habits destroyed from oil spills. I hope this gets it’s proper funding to clean the waters, thanks for the post.

  • This a great invention. this invention can really help in the future and help keep the ocean cleaner and also, but helping keep the animals safe and not dying out over the years. . Inventions like this one is the key for the years to come. This invention will be very important in the future if there is any future accents and will help the clean up process go a lot quicker. I just have one question that I am unsure about. I don’t know much the clean up process of oil spill however with these sail boat where does the oil go once it is pick up is there a tube or something that is connect to it and take it some where? Thank you for sharing the amazing invention and cant wait to see it in the future help keeping our oceans clean.

  • I say we get this thing going and lets start cleaning up the ocean and start exploring! This is one of the coolest things I have heard of and I am sure the animals would appreciate it too!

  • This is such a useful and innovative invention. I thought it was interesting how posting their boat technology on the internet help them create an even better product. It’s amazing how much the internet helps with globalizing and innovating products.

  • This invention is an amazing one. This could have multiple impacts on our world and the way we manage oil spills or pollution such as radioactivity in the environment, as well as helping the animals in those environments survive. This invention will be able to sustain itself, and not only that but it will prevent the insane amount of spending on the other methods so that the time and money originally used for that can be focused in more crucial areas.

  • WOW! This invention is amazing. I knew that our oceans took up a big chunk of this earth but I did not know that it covered 70% of our land. With all the oil spills, plastic debris, and radioactive material, that is accumulating in our oceans it’s killing the life cycle of our ocean. So I think it is amazing that the product you came up with can help clean our oceans up. Even if it is just a little bit, anything will help. I think that this is great and I can not wait to hear if this works. So is this product solar powered? Or what if it is Miles and miles out in the ocean, how do you get that back to you? Is there a camera on this device so we can see what is going on?

  • Well people who create this idea is very genius. This is the most valuable invention to save the ocean. If this device can be used widely in the future I guess our ocean will be a lot cleaner.

  • Wow! This is an awesome invention that could really do our planet some good. Oil spills and the contamination caused from it is devastating to any of the nature that gets tangled in the mess. More innovative ideas such as this are need if we as humans plan on continuing to use the earth. One of the clear major problems is getting enough people to buy in and potentially contribute to the necessary funding required. I am definitely interested to see where this invention goes and I hope it is successful! How long do you think this whole process will be until it is ready for action?

  • I would absolutely love to see this become a larger developed invention that could create lasting change across the ocean and repair a good amount of the damage done by pollution. We’ve managed to destroy plenty of areas of the ocean, but I don’t think we’re at the point of no return quite yet, and until then I believe we should do everything we can to fight for a future full of clean water.

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself Iamt5. I love how more people are embracing the linux and android concept of open-source (as I type this using the Linux Mint OS). I hope that more and more companies and entrepreneurs adopt this concept. If the goal of these companies is to make the world a better place, why not allow the world to help you make your dream a possibility? Like what was said in the video, if someone has a concept that is feasible, why not share it with others? Someone across the globe may be able to take your base concept and improve it in a fraction of the time you would have on your own. I truly hope the open source model becomes prevalent.

  • What an inspiring idea. I have always thought that the ocean holds an entire untapped market for production and therefore entrepreneurs. The public often ignores the oceans because they don’t live in them like we do on land. It is quite baffling how little the general public cares for the oceans even though it makes up 70% of the earth.

  • This is so amazing! I heard something about this before, because never followed up on it. I love the fact that Gabriella published her creation, so that others can copy and improve the design. I wish I can make a different like that one day.

  • The thing that really stood out to me was how they are involving everyone and anyone that wants to help, and improve previous designs. Because oil spills affect everyone on the planet, everyone should be involved in finding new, cheap, and efficient ways to contribute to cleaning up the water. I think this project will go far because people from all over the world are all working together, its not just one specific person coming up with the design. Overall, this is a great invention and really has never been touched on before.

  • I am very excited about this new technology due to the devastation of our oceans. I hope they can collect accurate data and clean up our water!

  • Let’s face it, we all need to make money, even the non profits and businesses with consciences, and I think Protei has been able to blend the ultimate environmental purpose of the boats and alternative purposes that have a more profitable target market. I do wonder what the clean up is like once the boats find what they’re looking for but great invention.

  • Gotta dig what happens when you open source things, you also have to respect them for doing that. I don’t feel like most people would ever do such a thing in fear of their idea being stolen.

  • I wish the video or article addressed how these boats would operate. It was clearly stated that these boats will clean oil spills, but how? The current method is to sail boats throughout an oil spill and these boats have skirts that collect the oil as they pass by. In the video the male stated the current boats only collect about 3% at a time. How would these small boats collect more? I think it’s an interesting concept and I would love to this company and their product thrive. Hopefully, later down the road we given an example of these boats and their applications actually being applied.

  • I really like the idea of this invention. I think it sends a great message and it looks like it would actually work. It is so true that the ocean is so large and we have such little knowledge about what it has to offer. My only concern with this gadget would it durability. They say that it is durable, but the ocean can be very unforgiving. So all of the garbage this things just collected could go down with this ship, which would contribute more to the pollution. I do however think they would work very well but the vessels would just have to be monitered and only used when conditions are safe.

  • Definitely a good use of technology to help with one of the major economical problems that we all face. Hopefully they can really kick this project up a notch and get it working.

  • You are absolutely right. We need to start using all this technology to help clean up from the other technology that caused these problems.