This shape-shifting sailboat drone could provide a cheaper and more efficient way to remove the plastic from the world's oceans.

Photo Credit: Protei Design

Photo Credit: Protei Design

The world's oceans are full of plastic. So much so, that research shows that we don't actually know where 99 percent of the trash is. This makes it extremely hard for cleanup efforts. Manual cleanup isn't very effective, and it's quite expensive. Sailboat drones could be the best solution, and are $3.45 million cheaper than manual cleanup efforts. 

A group named Protei is behind the effort to use robotic boats to map out the trash near the ocean's surface, and use this data for direct cleanup efforts. The actual mapping would require a giant swarm of nautical drones that can be controlled remotely. Ideally, the company would want each sailboat to be a meter long, and equipped with sensors and dragging nets. They would then deploy thousands of them into the oceans. 

The company's current prototype is a shape-shifting hull that moves like a snake to control its trajectory. The drone is said to be unsinkable and ready for any hurricane. It uses wind power and can tow a payload of under five founds. 

If Protei's cleanup drone works the way they hope, the company says it could be used to monitor fishery stocks, study algae blooms and to monitor the health of natural reserves.