Skinners Pond the 'launching point' for new automated dredging system

A new, automated dredging system that uses a robot instead of people to do the work is being piloted in Skinners Pond, P.E.I.

System uses a robot to detect unwanted material underwater, then removes it

This is all that's visible of the underwater robot dredging in the harbour at Skinners Pond. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

A new automated dredging system that uses a robot to do the work is being piloted in Skinners Pond, P.E.I.

Traditional dredging requires people to be on the water using large equipment, but this system — called Mighty Dredge — takes humans off the water.

It's a quicker, safer way to dredge, said Caleb Dyck, research and development lead with Canada Pump and Power, the company behind the new technology.

"What this system does is it removes the operator from the actual dredging," said Dyck. 

"And makes it so that it's all controlled through a centralized system so that we don't have any safety concerns with people out on the water." 

Caleb Dyck, research and development lead with Canada Pump and Power, says his company's system offers a quicker, safer and more cost-effective way to dredge. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

The robot first works to identify what's on the seabed of the harbour. Then, it takes unwanted materials — anything from seaweed to sand to fishing debris — and moves them to a storage tank. 

"And it can produce material at a more efficient rate," said Dyck. "By measuring in real time exactly what's going on, where it is, and what it's doing."

Saving money

He said it's about saving money too, and estimates that the Mighty Dredge system reduces the cost of dredging by about 30 per cent. 

The project is part of the Build in Canada Innovation Program — where Canadian technology is purchased and used by the federal government. 

'We know that harbours such as this are really important to people's livelihoods,' Dyck says. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

As part of the program, the federal government now owns this Mighty Dredge system, and can deploy it across the country.

Officials with Canada Pump and Power have been working to familiarize locals on how the technology works as part of the two-week pilot project on P.E.I.

"It's certainly the plan moving forward," said Dyck. 

"So we are performing some training courses with some of the local contractors and potential operators of this system so that they can deploy it in future applications."

Success so far

He said a small-scale system, like the one being piloted in Skinners Pond, is worth about $500,000, and this is the company's first official sale of the product through BCIP. 

Material identified and picked up by the underwater robot comes through this pipe into a separate collection site, and is later disposed of. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

"We're very excited, we certainly think this is a launching point and we're really proud to participate," said Dyck. He said the trial has gone well in Skinners Pond, and the feedback has been positive. 

"We know that harbours such as this are really important to people's livelihoods," said Dyck.

"So keeping them clean and available is really an important aspect of maintaining livelihood in this specific area."

The Mighty Dredge was installed two weeks ago, and the pilot is set to wrap up this week.  

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