Unmanned Aerial Systems for Marine Macro Litter

When Portuguese researchers began evaluating the literature on marine litter, it became clear that much more attention was placed on shorelines than dunes. Hoping to propose a new mapping system that was inclusive of coastal dunes, a new framework was proposed in 2020, wherein Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and a mobile application are used to identify, map, and quantify marine macro-litter. Defined as any piece of litter greater than 2.5 cm, marine macro-litter is able to be identified via imagery drones, which then transmit images to a manual image screening mobile application. Once the macro-litter is identified and quantified, spatial analyses can be conducted to determine the breadth of accumulation on dunes. The UAS and mobile application systems were tested on a dune area on the Portuguese coast, where nine different litter categories were identified. Plastic was the most common material identified, with plastic bottles being amongst the most abundant items along with fishing-related materials. The dual system was also able to showcase litter hotspots, areas of high density and count, as well as primary marine litter pathways; with such information, researchers can effectively suggest mitigation measures to coastal managers. While the system is unintrusive and does not disturb the natural surroundings of the area, the lack of humans on the ground to verify findings could pose an impediment to the fully accurate identification of smaller forms of macro-litter.


Data, Ecological Monitoring, Internet of Things, Monitoring, Pollution, Visual Technologies