Smart cameras for coastal monitoring

Mr Chris Drummond1, Dr Mitchel Harley1

1UNSW Water Research Laboratory, Manly Vale, Australia


Coastal engineering practitioners are regularly faced with the difficulty of managing areas subject to beach erosion and inundation while having limited monitoring data of the coastal zone. In most cases, coastal data is sporadic, outdated or no longer represent the constantly changing nature of this area which often hinders the long-term success of coastal management decisions. While routine monitoring of the nearshore using camera-based systems is a well-established technique, these systems have traditionally been costly to establish and generally beyond the resources available for most projects.

A low-cost smart camera system is presented here to overcome these challenges by combining start of the art machine learning algorithms with established image processing techniques to quantify beach usage and track shoreline change. The innovative system allows for analysis of coastal change in response to storm events and patterns of beach use to understand the value of beaches to our communities. This system includes an online dashboard showing live and archived imagery, timelapse videos, shoreline analysis and people counts.

This talk outlines the capability of the system including insights into ‘the business of the beach’  by analysing patterns in daily and seasonal trends in beach visitation.

The smart camera system is shown to provide a cost-effective solution to unlock unprecedented information about shoreline change and beach visitation data. This information is becoming increasingly critical as we attempt to understand the value of beaches to our communities and develop sustainable future management strategies to protect our beaches for future generations.


Chris is a coastal-zone remote sensing expert with over 8 years experience applying remote sensing techniques such as satellite imagery, UAV and remote camera systems. He specialises in the development of bespoke and pioneering monitoring solutions for coastal zone management issues.