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Drones help identify plastic waste in oceans with AI

The Plastic Tide, the UK's environmental organization, has a primary mission to decrease and alleviate the amount of waste in the oceans. According to the organization, 78 million tons of plastic are produced per year in the world – most of which are food packaging used only once and discarded. To further advance its objectives, the project has recently used a DJI Phantom 4, from DJI, a drone adapted with artificial intelligence technology, which learns from captured images, identifies and classifies the collected objects.

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The group started using drone flight technology because its greatest difficulty was monitoring the beaches. The device recognizes the concentration of pollution thanks to some learning algorithms implanted in the machine and remotely detects the accumulation of plastic. With the data collected by the equipment, customized by the organization, it is possible to outline assertive strategies and find the best solution to the problems.

According to the organization, the plastic waste grows in the order of 8 million tons per year. If nothing is done, it is estimated that this number will rise to 80 million tons per year by 2025. These impurities consist of all sizes of plastics, with larger parts taking at least 400 years to be broken into fragments known as microplastics, which can take hundreds of thousands of years to completely decompose.

"We know that we needed a versatile and stable drone to do the research work and there was only one on the market that could do that at the time – the DJI Phantom 4. The use of the drone was essential and allowed us to capture detailed images of the beaches that we needed for the next stage of the project ",Peter Kohler, founder of The Plastic Tide.

However, the good results of drone tests show that the solution for collecting waste more effectively can be closer, with more detailed images using manual flight modes to search for beaches at lower altitudes.

The DJI Phantom line, the world's largest drone manufacturer, has a number of highlights over the company's Mavic line and will receive new models of the Pro 2.0 version soon, with an expected arrival earlier this year.