Litter hurts everything it touches. It is an environmental pollutant that hurts physical and mental health. It discourages foot traffic and decreases activity along commercial corridors. It can suppress property values. Litter is a common problem with far reaching effects.
The amount of litter in the environment is growing and most tools and techniques to deal with it are manual. While we have tools to deal with litter, these tools have a 1:1 ratio with a worker limiting automation.
While higher capacity tools such as power sweepers and street sweepers exist, these still require manual control. Further, the more automatic solutions often don't fit in more human-centric spaces.
Indoor commercial robotic sweepers do not have the autonomy capable of operating in busy outdoor human-centric space. Other robotic solutions are focused on solutions that have only a single use case (medium scale sweeping). We see an opportunity for modular robotic automation of sweeping and litter management in small to medium scale human centric outdoor spaces.
Humans are great a finding and removing litter from hard to reach places. Machines are great at sweeping it up. Our prototype is capable of following a sanitation worker, maintaining a safe distance, and identifying and collecting trash all while successfully avoiding obstacles.