In Europe, drones are being used to monitor and evaluate beach litter. A paper was recently published in the Journal Marine Pollution Bulletin that explained the system which makes use of drones in tracking and analyzing litter. The system was developed by a local oceanography research team, Serena Lagorio, Adam Gauci, and Alan Deidun.
In the paper, they stated that the drones can generate density maps along the Maltese coastal beaches while carrying out inspections. The drones can also be used to determine the type of litter on the beach. The researchers explained that the system will be cost effective and less time consuming when compared to the traditional methods used in surveying beaches. It will also use fewer resources and make things much easier.
Normally, the European Commissions Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) demands that all member states follow regulations which include beach inspections every 3 months. The researchers tested 3 coastal areas with the drones and captured images that were imported into Google Earth. They used a mapping system to detect litter density and create a structure for the data.
Before the drones were used, the team carried out a ground exercise so that they could better understand the locations that were about to be mapped. During the exercise, litter was classified into specific categories such as: rope, wood, rubber, metals, and others. Using the drones to monitor the beaches satisfied MSFD’s requirements.
The researchers realize that using drones can help to quickly and easily identify litter while getting a better understanding of how it’s distributed on the beaches. The data can also help decision making on beach management such as figuring out the best locations to place garbage cans.
The group had recently applied for funds from the EU which will help them expand their operations and purchase more drones. With more drones in use, they will have the ability to cover a wider area during their analysis. Currently they are using off-the-shelf drones for the project, but with specialized higher-end drones, the group hopes to achieve better results faster and more efficiently.