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AIR-SOS - Remote sensing for marine litter



Prime contractor
Organisational Unit
Implementation progress
26 May 2020

Duration: 24 months


Satellites have the potential to observe floating marine litter aggregations at the global scale, which is needed to effectively mitigate the marine litter problem. 

However, the methodology is still in its infancy and requires validation using low flights, ships or in situ sampling. To develop and support detection across multiple scales of observation, SkyfloX (SFX), Höltken Solutions (HS) and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) propose to include General Aviation (GA) aeroplanes to validate and assess marine litter detection. Ultimately, our methods and sensors would be used to complement satellite observations using the ORCA constellation (Optical and Radiofrequency Constellations on Aircraft). Focusing on the optically complex Elbe River discharge area, impacted by floating marine litter, we combine expertise in aquatic optics and airborne high-resolution satellite processing and knowhow of aeroplane/pilot/payload operation to determine detection requirements, using hyperspectral sensors aboard (GA) aircraft alongside Sentinel 2A/B Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI) data. The PML Floating Debris Index, reference model (MAP_ref) and atmospheric correction for floating marine litter detection will be validated and optimised using high resolution hyperspectral imagery from aircraft and pilot observations. Sustained use of GA aeroplanes in a workflow combining airborne and satellite data is highly innovative and likely to prove essential in developing and enforcing legislation around marine litter. GA can fly multi- to hyper-spectral sensors and collect data at lower cost than other airborne options, provide visual cross-checks (by pilots). Seaplanes may also contribute to direct insitu measurements and occasional sampling. The results of this study will be used as a precursor to a lasting test campaign service using GA aeroplanes (develop piloting guidelines and operation standards) leading to an operational monitoring platform offering synergy between ORCA and satellites.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Marine Litter
Main application area
Topical cluster
Marine litter