Aerial detection of beached marine plastic using a novel, hyperspectral short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera

Jennifer Laura Cocking, Bhavani Narayanaswamy, Claire Waluda, Benjamin Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


Plastic pollution in the marine environment is a pervasive, global problem that threatens wildlife and human health. Routine monitoring is required to determine pollution hotspots, focus clean-up efforts, and assess the efficacy of legislation implemented to reduce environmental contamination. The shoreline represents an accessible area, relative to open water, from which to monitor this. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer a low-cost platform for remote sensing that operates below cloud coverage, which can interfere with satellite imagery. Detection of plastic using visible light is limited however, and results may be improved by using short-wave infrared (SWIR) imagery to collect chemical information. Within the commercial recycling industry, plastic items are sorted successfully based on their composition using SWIR instrumentation that measures the chemical spectra of waste items under controlled illumination. Here, proof of concept is established for aerial detection of domestic and shoreline-harvested plastic items on a beach under natural sunlight with a lightweight (800 g), hyperspectral SWIR camera deployed at an altitude of ∼ 5 m over ∼ 30-m transects. The results of spectral correlation mapping to compare imagery spectra to polyethylene and polypropylene reference spectra demonstrate that these two polymers can be successfully detected with this novel method.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2022


  • hyperspectral
  • macroplastics
  • plastic pollution
  • remote sensing
  • shoreline
  • short-wave infrared
  • spectral angle mapping


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