Cookies Policy
The website need some cookies and similar means to function. If you permit us, we will use those means to collect data on your visits for aggregated statistics to improve our service. Find out More
Accept Reject
  • Menu

Portuguese project funded by the ESA aims to detect marine litter remotely

01st October 2020

The tests comprehended obtaining spectral signatures of different types of marine litter, with a fixed position on Porto Pim beach (Faial), and at different altitudes (20m-600m), according to various weather conditions. The images were collected through hyperspectral sensors, on board of manned aircrafts and unmanned systems (drones). The objective is to compare the spectral signature of different materials, obtained on flights performed by aircrafts, with the spectral signature acquired by the multispectral sensor on board the Sentinel-2 satellite.

“In the preliminary analysis of the results, it was possible to verify that the marine litter has a spectral signature different from the seabed - in this case, water; therefore, we can identify it by using hyperspectral image sensors. This spectral signature does not vary considerably with altitude or weather conditions, and is quite similar to the results obtained by the same material in a laboratory environment”, explained Hugo Silva, researcher at the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC).

In the future, researchers hope that these technologies will be effective in identifying "hot-spots" of plastics floating in the sea. “The next steps in the project involve the development of automatic processing algorithms, in order to test and validate whether the materials are automatically detectable, and what is the minimum concentration per pixel for it to be detectable. These factors are important to explore the future feasibility of said sensors on board of satellites, for the remote detection of marine litter”, concluded Hugo Silva.

The European Space Agency (ESA) funded this project, allocating €200K through the Assessments to Prepare and De-Risk Technology Developments programme. INESC TEC is the leader of the project, developed in partnership with the Okeanos R&D Centre, at the University of the Azores, and the AIR Centre. The AEROESPAÇO - Centro de Ciência e do Espaço do Aeroclube de Torres Vedras supported the project’s tests.


For further inquiries:

Eunice Oliveira

Communication Service


FEUP Campus

Rua Dr Roberto Frias

4200-465 Porto


P +351 22 209 4118

M +351 934 224 331


Porto - October 1, 2020