Launching the Marine Litter DRONET

The Plastic Tide is thrilled to announce the launch of the global Marine Litter DRONET.

“The Marine Litter DRONET supports The Plastic Tide’s mission by bringing together different people, organisations, NGOs and enthusiasts from around the world to design a simple, repeatable and accurate method for surveying marine litter with drone technology.”

 Map of members as of April 2018

Map of members as of April 2018

At current trends, by 2025 the rate at which we haemorrhage plastic into the oceans will increase by 10 times to ~80 million metric tonnes per year[1] and this is just plastics! It will likely continue to increase in line with our global plastic production, which could hit approximately 1.8 Billion metric tonnes by 2050[2].

All this means these sorts of sights will become all too common in our seas and on our beaches...

 Victims of an ocean under siege with our own litter.

Victims of an ocean under siege with our own litter.

Change.

Plastic and marine pollution of our oceans is a complex problem that needs coordinated change on many levels to prevent it intensifying and turning our oceans into humanity’s waste bin.  A key enabler of this change is our ability to understand the problem and monitor the effectiveness of the preventative action we put in place, this being a core mission of The Plastic Tide.

The Problem

The Marine Litter DRONET supports The Plastic Tide’s mission by bringing together different people, organisations, NGOs and enthusiasts from around the world to design a simple, repeatable and accurate method for surveying marine litter with drone technology. The initial focus is on aerial drones for coastlines, but we hope to extend this to the seafloor, sea surface and even water column.

Minehead 30.jpg

An Integrated approach.

The Survey Methodology developed will eventually be integrated with global efforts to develop coordinated Marine Litter protocols. For example, the current version of the drone survey methodology, initially developed by The Plastic Tide, is based on the OSPAR Marine Litter protocol. Integration will ensure that truly standardised and scalable data can be collected globally giving scientists, policy makers, companies and the public one view of the marine litter problem!

 Drone Pilot and Mission Director passing a lonely pot noodle on Hemmick Beach, Cornwall.

Drone Pilot and Mission Director passing a lonely pot noodle on Hemmick Beach, Cornwall.

How it works.

The network is growing steadily with 17 core members (45 in total) from 26 organisations. Members contribute by sharing images they have captured from beach surveys to help train the algorithm and/or help develop and improve the survey methodology.  Each member must first agree to the Marine Litter DRONET Charter, which ensures there is a common understanding of the open and collaborative nature of the network. Members on the network exchange survey findings and experiment with new approaches. They then can discuss they’re surveying approach with the other members and roughly once a quarter join a coordination forum with all members.

See our live membership map (names added with permission): https://bit.ly/2H0nV0P

 Drone surveying at Gwithian Beach, Cornwall.

Drone surveying at Gwithian Beach, Cornwall.

Successes

The Marine Litter DRONET has already had some fantastic successes in the few months of its existence! Over 7,000 new survey images have been contributed and are being tagged by our citizen scientists. These have come from three members, with more set to come!

·         Digital Drift (USA): 4,000+ images

·         Hover UAV (Australia): 2,000 images

·         DroneOverview (UK): 1,000 images

The DRONET has also contributed to improving the survey methodology, and is excitedly awaiting contributions soon from the Artic to the tropics!

Future Goals.

It is the eventual aim for the Marine Litter DRONET to evolve into the standards setting agency for global marine litter surveying!

Get Involved

If you want to find out more, or would like to get involved, please email The Plastic Tide team at ThePlasticTide@gmail.com

Otherwise, follow our social media for the latest announcements.

See you out there!

Sources:

[1] Jenna R. Jambeck, Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, Theodore R. Siegler, Miriam Perryman, Anthony Andrady, Kara Lavender Law. 2013. Plastic Waste Inputs form land into the ocean. Science: Vol 347. Issue 6223, pp. 768-771 (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768)

[2] UNEP. 2016. Global plastic production and future trends. Marine Litter - Vital Graphics. (http://www.grida.no/resources/6923)