Marine litter is a huge problem with lots of statistics that boggle the mind. Most people will also have heard of the North Pacific Gyre, or rather, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It occupies a relatively stationary area that is twice the size of Texas. What we are trying to do with The Plastic Drive is raise awareness about the problem and record data on beach litter in a scientifically useful way such that it can be fed into the relevant models (current understanding of how litter moves around at sea is still rather crude).


To help put some method into the madness we are supported by Kayleigh Wyles from Plymouth Marine Laboratory and, from Imperial College, Michael Lange (HPC), Erik Van Sebille (Ocean Circulation), and Stefan Leutenegger (Dyson lab).

To increase coverage and efficiency we figured we could use drones to map beaches & strandlines and process the imagery with some of the fancy deep nets that are all the rage these days. Hence a plan was formed and a UK version of the drive planned late summer. To test the basic data collection workflow we bought a second hand Canon SX260 on eBay, installed CHDK, strapped it to a quad and started doing some flights. Data is processed with DroneDeploy. Every area we fly we also survey manually and that way build up some data and experience as to the kind of things you find and would want to detect from the imagery. We know the camera is not great but its cheap and good enough for a baseline.


We've only just started with two outings so far, a third one planned. But as we are trying to raise awareness and get people involved I thought it useful to post here in case anybody has done similar things or wants to help out.

Full writeup can be found at: and you can follow progress @ThePlasticDrive.


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