Drones to help counter plastic tide on UK beaches

21 Mar 2017


Peter Kohler, 33, founder of The Plastic Tide, and co-director Ellie Mackay, 28 have launched a mission to push back against the rising tide of plastic on beaches in the UK.

This month would see them start work on a groundbreaking project.

Their organisation has developed a revolutionary algorithm that would scan aerial images, taken by drones, and identify plastic to produce an accurate map of the worst polluted parts of the UK's coastlines.

Over a period of five weeks they plan to survey 30 seashores using drone technology to collate over 30,000 photographs.

Kohler, works as a location analytics expert for Chelsea and Kensington council, and wants to know where 99 per cent of total plastic is ending up.

''We can only account for about one per cent of the total plastic that is going into the ocean,'' he says, The Telegraph reported. ''We don't know where the other 99 per cent is. It could be on the seabed, in marine life or washing up on beaches. Until now, there hasn't been an accurate way to measure this.''

"And so what the Plastic Tide is doing, it's using drone technology to image beaches in a way that's never been done before, on a scientific scale, Sky News reported Kohler as saying. So that you can build up a picture of how much of that missing 99 per cent is washing up on our beaches."

For the imaging exercise, the two use an off-the-shelf drone and select the area of beach they want to film.

A free app serves up a survey pattern flight path and the drone moves up and down the beach as if it were ploughing it.

The images taken are then uploaded to a scientific crowd-sourcing platform called Zooniverse, which can be logged by any person. They can also look at the images and tag bits of plastic in them.

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