In an unexpected use of rapidly improving sensors and robots, Dutch entrepreneur Gerben Lievers invented a unique tool to solve all these problems at once: a poop-scooping drone.
The drone has already gone through multiple iterations, each improvement aiming to further perfect the technology so that it leaves streets as poop-free as possible.
The team’s first model, a drone called Watchdog 1, used thermal imaging to locate uncollected dog droppings by their warm temperatures compared to the surrounding area. That data was appended with GPS coordinates and sent to a ground-based robot called Patroldog 1, which rolled off to collect its target.
After trying both a vacuum-type collection mechanism and arms that really did ‘scoop’ the poop, the team decided the vacuum worked better because it can pick up material of various consistencies (ick).
Speaking of which, thermal imaging only identifies waste that is, ahem, fresh. What about the stuff that’s been sitting there for hours or days? It’s equally unpleasant, and should also be banished from sidewalks.
To solve this problem, the team added recognition software to the drone, training it to recognize stale poop from above using images.
[ed. I think we have a winner for next year's Nobel prize.]