Beach litter survey by drones: Mini-review and discussion of a potential standardization

Gil Gonçalves, Umberto Andriolo, Luísa M. S. Gonçalves, Paula Sobral, Filipa Bessa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The abundance of beach litter has been increasing globally during the last decades, and it is an issue of global concern. A new survey strategy, based on uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV, aka drones), has been recently adopted to improve the monitoring of beach macro-litter items abundance and distribution. This work identified and analysed the 15 studies that used drone for beach litter surveys on an operational basis. The analysis of technical parameters for drone flight deployment revealed that flight altitude varied between 5 and 40 m. The analysis of final assessments showed that, through manual and/or automated items detection on images, most of studies provided litter bulk characteristics (type, material and size), along with litter distribution maps. The potential standardization of drone-based litter survey would allow a comparison among surveys, however it seems difficult to propose a standard set of flight parameters, given the wide variety of coastal environments, the different devices available, and the diverse objectives of drone-based litter surveys. On the other hand, in our view, a set of common outcomes can be proposed, based on the grid mapping process, which can be easily generated following the procedure indicated in the paper. This work sets the ground for the development of a standardized protocol for drone litter data collection, analysis and assessments. This would allow the provision of broad scale comparative studies to support coastal management at both national and international scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120370
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number15 December
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022


  • Coastal monitoring
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Plastic pollution
  • Remote sensing


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