The pooper-scooper drone is the invention of Dutch entrepreneur Gerben Lievers.
(Pooper Scooper Drones)
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.
Except for the manner of pickup, I think that this is pretty close to what science fiction author Harry Harrison described In his 1956 short story The Velvet Glove:
Carl had always known there were garbage trucks, but of course he had never seen one. It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long. A robot driver was built into the cab. Thirty other robots stood on foot-steps along the sides.
The supervisor led the way to the rear of the truck and pointed to the gaping mouth of the receiving bin.
"Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there," he said. "Then they press one of these here thirteen buttons keying whatever they have dumped into one of the thirteen bins inside the truck. They're just plain lifting robots and not too brainy..."
(Read more about robot trash collectors)