SCCWRP and its partners have kicked off a three-year project to develop standardized methods for quantifying trash in California waterways, including using imagery collected from unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to supplement assessments by field crews that walk the system.
Researchers will seek to adapt artificial-intelligence technologies to autonomously identify and quantify trash in aerial imagery, including being able to distinguish different types of trash.
The goal is to develop consistent, repeatable protocols for monitoring trash in streams and rivers across California. These protocols will enable environmental managers to assess the effectiveness of recent statewide policies aimed at reducing the volume of trash entering California waterways.
UAS, commonly known as drones, have the potential to provide a rapid, cost-effective alternative to traditional, labor-intensive data collection methods in the field.
The project involves using Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing resources and Esri’s geospatial mapping software – both of which were made available to the project through the Microsoft AI for Earth grant program.
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