This AI-Enabled Drones Will Allow Scientists To Locate Marine Debris

Marine debris is becoming a massive problem. Scientists have started to develop artificially intelligent drones which will spot human-made beach trash from the air.

The research project started in June 2020 and runs through to the end of this May. Researchers from the Oregon State University, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science are leading the research.

One of the DJI quadcopters utilized in the study

They started by using a polarimetric camera – which images electromagnetic waves – to record video of both natural and human-made objects on the shore of Corpus Christi, Texas. The footage was shot on the ground and from a US Coast Guard helicopter.

That video was used to develop machine-learning-based algorithms, which would spot and classify synthetic-material objects based on the distinctive way they reflect polarized light. Natural objects, like rocks and vegetation, reflect polarized light in a different fashion.

Researchers Develop Drone-based System to Detect Marine Debris, Expedite  Clean Up (Video) - NCCOS Coastal Science Website

The main concept and aim are for them to be able to fly along the coastline, autonomously detecting and mapping the locations of the washed-up litter as they do so. Human workers will then use that data to see where the greatest amounts of debris are located. This will help them allocate resources to targeted places.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program staff will be trained in the operation of the system this summer (Northern Hemisphere).

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