The Ocean Cleanup collection system is currently undergoing final field trials. And very soon it will start working fully, almost offline. This somewhat confuses the engineers who are engaged in the further development of the project, since they are faced with the task of teaching this extraordinary robot to navigate the ocean in search of garbage.
In the current version, the Ocean Cleanup bin is very simple and its tasks are set to the simplest, but in the future that will change. The time will come when the largest, densest pockets of debris will be cleared away, and new robots will have to scour the entire ocean in search of small accumulations. The problem of how to find them faced the full-length researchers several years ago, at the stage of measuring the size and position of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The human eye and lidar easily confuse pieces of plastic with the glare of the sun, wood debris and other debris; a simple survey of the territory from the air does little. In order not to waste resources and time, it is necessary to collect plastic first of all, other garbage is less harmful to nature. But how to distinguish one from the other when remotely assessing the front of work? They found a way out at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, where they suggested looking for plastic with a short-wave infrared scanner - this material is clearly visible in its light.
However, it is one thing to look at plastic in the laboratory - and quite another to scan a real stormy ocean in search of it. So far, the percentage of errors in recognizing plastic among the general garbage is depressingly high, the technology needs to be improved, with the involvement of neural networks and artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of working with fragmentary data. However, in the future, infrared scanners may become the "all-seeing eye" for future ocean scavengers in their hunt for plastic.