The Great British Drone-Assisted Litter Pick

We’ve all seen the gut-wrenching videos of aquatic wildlife getting trapped in old can links or ingesting discarded barbie legs. We may have said that we’re going to do something about it, too. But besides cutting up the plastic our drinks come in and frantically ridding our bathrooms of micro-beaded cosmetics, we’re often short of effective solutions.

A Great Reason To Fly Your Drone

One such solution, however, is drone-assisted litter-picking. Yes, the future of conservation is in the hands – well, wings – of our hovering friends: the DJI Phantom 3 to be specific. Given that plastics can take over 450 years to disintegrate, The Plastic Tide – made up of Peter Kohler and Ellie Mackay – have decided to do something about it, starting with the 30 year-old yoghurt pots on their local beach in Kingsdown, Kent.
They have created a groundbreaking algorithm that scans images of local beaches taken by the drones and locates any plastic. From these pictures, we can have a comprehensive idea of the beaches most in need of our litter-picking prowess.

Machine Learning And Litter Picking

The team aren’t alone in their quest for locating the actual source of the plastic, either; both NASA and the European Space agency are working on it too. Once they’ve collated all the images, the results be uploaded onto their site and you can volunteer to tag any plastic you spot. This will train their algorithm to eventually do it by itself. And whilst not all would leap at the chance of a plastic-tagging weekend, word has it that it’s a strangely addictive pastime.

A Global Mission

One day, Plastic Tide hope to make this service available globally, encouraging school children to note the change to their local areas. So how accurate is it at spotting plastic right now? Apparently more so than human eyesight, and set to only get better as the machine learning process continues.
This combination of machine learning and drone flight is an exciting milestone in the effort to preserve our beaches. It’s also a great excuse to take a drone for a spin. Visit The Telegraph for more information. To hire a drone for a spot of beach surveillance yourself, see what’s renting near you.
 

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