KOBOT, an autonomous marine pollution prevention robot that protects clean oceans

Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries NET New Technology, Public Procurement Service Innovative Product, Korea Invention Society Excellent Invention certifications 권동호 기자l승인2023.09.20l수정2023.09.20 15:59







Ocean pollution is a topic of great concern. Oil spills from ships large and small, microplastics adversely affecting fisheries, and many other factors are threatening the marine environment. More recently, the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima has threatened not only the fishing industry, but also the culinary industry, and calls for preventative measures. One company has developed a variety of products that can solve the challenges of the current marine pollution problem. Monthly PowerKorea interviewed Keongtaek Park, CEO of Koai, which has developed the world’s first KOBOT that protects the marine environment by recovering spilled oil and microplastics through autonomous driving.


Developing marine pollution prevention tools in collaboration with KIST, Seoul National University, and Hongik University to protect clean oceans

With the goal of “clear and clean seas and a beautiful future environment,” Koai is a manufacturer of highly efficient marine pollution control devices. The company has developed various marine pollution prevention tools in cooperation with the Korea Coast Guard, KIST, Seoul National University, and Hongik University. DIONEER V.2.0 (Large Area Automated Oil Recovery), developed as one of them, is a device that is connected to and towed by a small vessel and creates a Y-shaped collection area by a deployer, and the oil-water mixture entering between them is separated by an oil-water separator and stored in a floating surface reservoir located at the rear. This is equipment that can continuously separate and recover oil spilled in the ocean using vessels such as small fishing boats, and is being used by the Mokpo Coast Guard at the moment. The technology was recently published in the Elsevier Journal, where it was recognized for its equipment capabilities and technology. Other equipment includes V2.0 SCOOPERS (oil skimmers), which can selectively recover oil only, such as oil spilled from rivers or oceans. The surface of the float is based on a hydrophilic material that allows water to pass through but not oil, so even if water and oil are mixed, when you float it, the water will drain away and only the oil will be collected. Because it is a floating method, it can be used immediately on site without specialized knowledge. This allows for a very effective and quick response in confined spaces, such as small vessel oil spills, which can occur on a daily basis.


KOBOT, the world’s first artificial intelligence autonomous marine pollution control robot

Hydrophilic lettuce material source technology collects oil, microplastics, and hazardous chemicals

Nine percent of most port oil spills are small, less than one ton. However, even small spills can lead to major marine pollution if they are not dealt with quickly. KOBOT is an unmanned marine pollution recovery robot developed for this purpose. It navigates autonomously to recover oil or pollutants. Unlike conventional pollution recovery equipment that uses additional collaborative devices connected by hoses, KOBOT combines the recovery, transportation, and storage of pollutants into a single floating drone that can travel far and wide. Its most notable feature is its U.S. patented hydrophilic ratchet-based contaminant recovery technology. It is a technology that generates a flow that sucks water through the movement of hydrophilic lettuce material and controls the attachment and detachment of contaminants to the lettuce surface by capillary force. The technology is capable of recovering oil, microplastics, and various floating chemicals spilled into the ocean, preventing headaches, nausea, and breathing difficulties for workers. KOBOT is the world’s first artificial intelligence pollution control robot with integrated capture, transportation and storage of pollutants.


▲ ㈜코아이 박경택 대표

Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries NET New Technology, Public Procurement Service Innovative Product, Korea Invention Society Excellent Invention certifications

KOBOT’s ‘marine pollutant removal technology utilizing hydrophilic ratchet drum’ has been certified as a NET new technology by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in 2023. The ‘marine pollutant recovery technology using hydrophilic ratchet drum and the technology utilizing unmanned powered water drones with integrated recovery, transportation, and storage’ have a great opportunity to capture overseas markets in the mobility market. It also obtained Public Procurement Service Innovative Product, and Korea Invention Society Excellent Invention certifications. The company said the certifications will allow it to supply KOBOT to public organizations in Korea, and continue marketing in Kuwait, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where it has partner partners. The company demonstrated the KOBOT to 30 port managers at Klang Port, Malaysia’s largest port, in September last year to validate its performance, and in October, the company exported equipment worth 100 million won to Kuwait. Together with its Kuwaiti partner BCI, the company exhibited various pest control equipment including KOBOT at the Middle East’s largest shipbuilding and marine exhibition ADIPEC 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and received a great response, and is now preparing to expand its export market in the Middle East. On June 22, 2023, the company, together with the Korea Coast Guard, the Korea Marine Environment Agency, Busan City, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, deployed 11 ships and KOBOT to demonstrate successful disaster prevention operations. The company participates in more than five famous overseas exhibitions every year, including six exhibitions including CES in 2022 and six exhibitions including CES and Nor-Shing in 2023, focusing on targeting overseas markets and improving equipment performance. The company has conducted more than 40 demonstrations of new technology equipment in real sea areas and large tidal tanks nationwide for commercialization in overseas markets, and has also conducted more than 10 equipment performance tests on bunker A, diesel, edible oil, fine plastics, LSFO (high viscosity low sulfur oil), etc. and has a certificate of entry into an accredited testing laboratory. KOBOT was selected as one of the top 10 R&D projects for solving social problems in 2022 and exhibited its achievements at the 2022 Korea Science and Technology Fair held at KINTEX in Ilsan. A company official said “We will continue our efforts to develop equipment with novel and innovative technologies to solve social problems that people feel uncomfortable with.”

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