Tagging Stateside - US Beaches now live!
As the late, low December sun says its final goodbyes to a wonderful day, it casts long shadows over the golden sands of Island Beach State Park, New Jersey. Morris Enyeart, cuts an isolated figure as he brings his drone in for a landing after one of many successful surveys. His back arched against a chill early evening wind sweeping in over the cold sea, “FFA Licensed Commercial Drone Pilot” set in black on his bright high vis jacket.
But this is no ordinary drone pilot, nor is this any ordinary survey. At 71 years young, Morris is not your usual candidate for drone pilot nor a tech-savvy entrepreneur! But after a long successful career in Insurance Technology, he was not quite ready to put his boots-up. Instead, on fishing trips out in the ocean he witnessed something that re-awoke his passion for the environment - “Finding plastic in the stomach of fish and watching seagulls try to eat plastic …drove me to help find a solution to this problem”, he says.
One of the most accessible places for cleaning oceans of plastics is our millions of miles’ coastlines. In 2016, Morris’ search for a solution led him to ask what makes the most effective use of beach cleaning efforts? He knew it would be key to know when and where plastic and marine litter accumulates on beaches. Realising the potential drones offered helped answer this question, Morris founded Digital Drift LLC and set about creating a new methodology for conducting beach litter surveys using drones to photograph the beach in a systematic way so the process could be used by non-technical coordinators for litter abatement assessments. He also knew that Machine Learning offered a potential solution to offer real-time detection of litter in a way that manual reviews of the survey data could not.
Through Morris’s research, he contacted Peter Kohler, Founder of The Plastic Tide, in 2017 where the potential for collaboration was clear. In particular, the New Jersey Parks Service approved Digital Drifting application conduct a visual beach litter survey in the Island Beach State Park using a drone. This offered Digital Drifting and The Plastic Tide a fantastic base for collaboration; Digital Drifting could now carry out beach scans and cleans until June 2018 and beyond of the same place.
The drone surveys allow us to build up a picture of the rates of accumulation and even the sizes and types that wash-up, thanks to your tags! Combined with Digital Drifting’s work with New Jersey Clean Communities and New Jersey Parks Services, will help develop new and groundbreaking methodologies for beach surveying.
The Plastic Tide Team