Drones Monitor Pollution in the Maldives

New Partnership to Use Drones to Monitor Plastic Pollution in the Maldives

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Melissa Schiele, a researcher at Loughborough University, is heading a new partnership with non-profit organization Oceans Unmanned and the Marine Research and High Education Center that aims to utilize drones to gain a greater understanding of the levels and rates of plastic pollution in the Maldives.

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Melissa, a PhD researcher at the School of Mechanical, Electrical, and Manufacturing Engineering, has worked with the team during her time in the region.

The partnership, with the support of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, seeks to establish a standardized methodology for detecting plastics in the Indian Ocean using drones. At present, there is no standard technique in place for the gathering of information on plastic aggregations and reposition rates around the Maldives.

Having focused on developing drone technology to protect and monitor marine life in her research, Melissa will assist in training local teams to operate water-landing fixed-wing drones supplied by Oceans Unmanned.

The data obtained from these flight operations will then be analyzed and leveraged to form an image of plastic pollution in the Maldives, home to the world’s seventh-largest coral reef system and over 1,100 species of fish and 180 species of coral. Having an understanding of the rates of plastic pollution is crucial to the safety of wildlife, as large pieces can ensnare animals, and small pieces can be ingested, in turn causing further harm to the food chain.

“This collaboration has been a great experience so far. There aren’t many people doing what I do, and to have such successful organisations reach out to us, donating kit and their time and expertise, is humbling and exciting,” said Melissa. “I hope this is the start of something which will grow in the Maldives, and potentially beyond.”

“We’re very excited about this partnership. We’ve been collaborating with Ms. Schiele over the past year on our marine debris initiatives and look forward to expanding the collaboration,” said Matt Pickett, founder of Oceans Unmanned. “In addition, we’re big believers in the power of technology to address environmental challenges and marine conservation is an area where we believe our experience can really support local efforts in the Maldives.”

Read more about drones for pollution:

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.




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