#dronesforgood - The Plastic Tide

I woke up yesterday to another event of a drone being used, with evil intentions in mind. Regardless of what you might think about the country of Venezuela and its ruling authority, the news of the use of drones (It looks now like it was a weaponised hexacopter) to take someones life is not going to make our flying habits any easier. It does highlight the need for counter drone measures. Due to this, I’ve decided to write a series of posts about the good things that drones do because we should be optimistic on this technology and our future!…

Onto the first real life case study of real work where someone (or a group) has decided to do their own thing and use drones for good. That is Pete Kohler’s and his organisation ’The Plastic Tide’. I met Pete (and this is why I’ve selected this one first having first hand experience - good job Pete!) during a London Ocean drinks social, a bunch of people that meet up and talk about things they have in common with the sea, whether that is sailing, fishing, stewardship, pollution - i’ts quite varied. TPT is a small and positive social movement of people that get together (they are also supported by Surfers Against Sewage and surely others) to clean beaches across the country, however first a drone is sent up to produce a high quality map the beaches. This imagery is analysed using a machine learning algorithm, to automatically pick out the rubbish to produce real on the ground scientific stats. This machine learning evolves because of people, ‘citizen scientists’. Citizen scientists log on to the website and help train the algorithm by manually picking out and labelling plastics and other rubbish on the imagery. This is a great concept as it engages the public and the field science has the benefit too of having the data, which is open to the public and totally transparent. Many man hours have been ploughed into this from volunteers (over 10k at time of writing) globally and the project has received some very favourable attention. 

Why don’t you get involved and tag some garbage? The project is 32% complete so more help is needed!

The Plastic Tide

TPT’s Citizen Science webpage

I really like this project as this is a topic that has been on my mind since I was growing up wondering why the beaches were dirty (I thought it was bad then, its obviously much worse now) - thanks to organisations such as The Ocean Cleanup for taking this matter seriously. TPT are getting people together, there is a bit of entertainment watching the drone do its thing and then time to clean! Also, where many beach cleans do only just that, clean, TPT collect data and make that open source, something that is rarely observed as organisations tend to cling tightly to their data. This data could well be used for scientific study and to influence policymakers to enable change. That would be nice.

Next time you are at the beach, or on a walk and you see some rubbish, feel good about picking it up, and if anyone sees you doing it, I will bet that they will nod and show gratitude at you for doing so :)

DITO - Drones In Trash Out - Dronegraphica’s on site motto to make small changes to our environment. We see what we can take away if we find site littered with rubbish.

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