The Ministry of Fisheries provides Maritime Rescue with the M5D-Airfox to locate plastics at sea

The Ministry of Fisheries provides Maritime Rescue with the M5D-Airfox to locate plastics at sea
26 June 2023

Supermarket bags, boxes, tarpaulins, bottles, small pieces of plastic… these are just some of the examples of marine pollution that the M5D-Airfox solar UAV, designed by Marine Instruments, has been able to detect off the Spanish coast. These detections of accumulated plastic are part of a series of tests being carried out as part of the Fisheries Inspection operation. This operation is led by the General Secretariat for Fisheries (SEGEPESCA), which has loaned the drone to Maritime Rescue (SASEMAR) for work to prevent and combat pollution of marine environments.

Optimised aerial sweeps

In addition to saving human lives at sea, Salvamento Marítimo has been tackling the challenge of plastics in the ocean for years, but Spain has some 8,000 kilometres of coastline and it is difficult to monitor such large areas. Until now, Salvamento has relied on its own manned aircraft to carry out these tasks, but the use of this type of aircraft could optimise the search work.

Thus, at the beginning of June, SASEMAR carried out various tests with the M5D-Airfox off the coast of Malaga and Almeria. In this case, the Airfox carried out operations different from those it has been carrying out for more than a year with SEGEPESCA, where it is responsible for maritime surveillance of the entire Spanish coast for the detection of illegal fishing by air. With SASEMAR, the UAV does not search for specific targets, but tries to sweep large areas of sea. For these exercises, the Galician company has carried out detailed calculation work and various tests in order to optimise the system and be able to cover the largest possible area of sea in the shortest possible time.

A UAV for spotting plastics in the sea

These tests, in which the Airfox was operated for two days off the coast of Malaga and another two days off the coast of Almeria, have had good results. Specifically, in the Alboran Sea in Almeria, the aircraft detected an area with a concentration of plastics, as expected by SASEMAR. Many scattered and smaller plastics were also spotted, which is why Salvamento Marítimo considers the Airfox to be a useful tool for this operation.