Remote Sensing of Sea Surface Artificial Floating Plastic Targets with Sentinel-2 and Unmanned Aerial Systems (Plastic Litter Project 2019)

Date of publication 3 August 2020

Authors Topouzelis, Konstantinos; Papageorgiou, Dimitris; Karagaitanakis, Alexandros; Papakonstantinou, Apostolos; Arias Ballesteros, Manuel.

Sources Remote Sensing : 12 (DocId: 12)



Remote sensing is a promising tool for the detection of floating marine plastics offering extensive area coverage and frequent observations. While floating plastics are reported in high concentrations in many places around the globe, no referencing dataset exists either for understanding the spectral behavior of floating plastics in a real environment, or for calibrating remote sensing algorithms and validating their results. To tackle this problem, we initiated the Plastic Litter Projects (PLPs), where large artificial plastic targets were constructed and deployed on the sea surface. The first such experiment was realised in the summer of 2018 (PLP2018) with three large targets of 10 x 10 m. Hereafter, we present the second Plastic Litter Project (PLP2019), where smaller 5 x 5 m targets were constructed to better simulate near-real conditions and examine the limitations of the detection with Sentinel-2 images. The smaller targets and the multiple acquisition dates allowed for several observations, with the targets being connected in a modular way to create different configurations of various sizes, material composition and coverage. A spectral signature for the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) targets was produced through modifying the U.S. Geological Survey PET signature using an inverse spectral unmixing calculation, and the resulting signature was used to perform a matched filtering processing on the Sentinel-2 images. The results provide evidence that under suitable conditions, pixels with a PET abundance fraction of at least as low as 25% can be successfully detected, while pinpointing several factors that significantly impact the detection capabilities. To the best of our knowledge, the 2018 and 2019 Plastic Litter Projects are to date the only large-scale field experiments on the remote detection of floating marine litter in a near-real environment and can be used as a reference for more extensive validation/calibration campaigns.

TSC Opinion

L’utilisation de la télédétection satellite pour détecter et monitorer la pollution plastique fait l’objet de nombreux articles journalistiques et scientifiques. Cette étude présente l’état de l’art de ce qui est réalisable avec le satellite sentinel-2 et des engins volants automatiques sur des cibles constituées de matériaux plastiques flottants sur des surfaces de 10 mètres sur 10 mètres ainsi que des surfaces de 5 mètres sur 5 mètres. Les auteurs montrent que la détection est possible de même que l’identification de l’abondance de tel ou tel plastique. Il s’agit d’une des premières études montrant les capacités réelles de détection de la pollution plastique océanique par satellite sur une grande échelle, en conditions réelles.

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