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Remote-controlled robots cleaning up small Michigan beaches

A BeBot is controlled through a joystick. Christina Burke operates one at the Brighton Recreation Area.
Michigan DNR
A BeBot is controlled through a joystick. Christina Burke operates one at the Brighton Recreation Area.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using robots to clean a couple of beaches. The BeBot, short for beach robot, runs on tracks.

Bebots are “remote controlled, electric powered beach cleaners, and they’re on a smaller scale than some of the ones that typically are pulled behind with a tractor on the bigger beaches,” said Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the agency

Belle Isle State Park has one of the beaches being cleaned up by a BeBot.
David Kenyon/MI Dept. of Natural Resources
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Michigan DNR
Belle Isle State Park has one of the beaches being cleaned up by a BeBot.

He said the machines screen the sand, picking up debris.

“Perhaps broken glass or cigarette butts, or other discarded material, plastic or other kinds of things that may have been discarded or inadvertently left as litter,” Olson explained.

According to a DNR news release, the machines can cover 32,000 square feet per hour. That means their use is limited to smaller beaches.

“So, we have one at Belle Isle that was donated. And then we have one that we purchased at Brighton State Recreation Area. I’ve seen the unit run and actually did it myself. It operates with a joystick.”

A DNR supervisor at the Brighton Recreation Area, Rowdy Perry, said in the news release that the BeBot not only helps clean the beach, "but it also serves as a conversation starter to educate the public about the importance of clean beaches and water across the state."

The DNR will continue to test the BeBots. Depending on how well they work, more might be used at other smaller beaches.

Editor's note: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is a sponsor of WCMU. We report on them as we do with any other organization.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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