Last month the Cascade chapter of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) held its spring symposium in Walla Walla. Among the leaders and innovators presenting, Michael Arens’ Clean Earth Rovers stood out.

Arens, the founder, CEO, and a recent college graduate, highlighted his startup’s development of autonomous technologies that clean fragile marine ecosystems of plastic pollutants. In his bio, Arens states, “Ocean plastic is one of the biggest issues we face…and we are here to create solutions that solve the problem.”

During the symposium, Arens shared an impressive video that showed how his autonomous ocean vehicle scans for and collects plastics out of waterways. Clean Earth Rovers is currently working with marinas to scale this work, citing cleanup of agricultural runoff, marine die-out, and plastic pollution as challenges his rover can tackle.

Nicknamed the “Plastics Piranha,” Arens is working to manufacture and fine-tune the rover as he scales the company. One audience member asked if he’d contacted the U.S. Navy about this work, signaling that not only could there be interest from industry but from the government as well.