Satellite FRONTs for detection of Anthropogenic plastic Litter

Fronts are the interface between water bodies and they often represent biodiversity hotspots. In addition they also constitute locations where floating plastics tend to aggregate. The goal of the FRONTAL project, funded by ESA, is to combine state-of-the-art satellite processing with mathematical modelling to develop a risk index for accumulation of plastic debris on waterfronts. Fronts will be identified by combining the Plymouth Marine Laboratory indicator for floating aggregations with existing front detection algorithms and dispersion models. The targeted areas will be then validated and analysed using EO data from different instruments such as Sentinel-1 SAR, Sentinel-2 MSI, CryoSat-2 SIRAL, Sentinel-3 SRAL, OLCI and AVHRR, and advanced processing techniques. In this way, different relationships between litter and fronts will be investigated and used to refine sensor requirements for the detection of marine plastic litter for future satellite missions.

The key output is a prototype of a risk map of accumulation of marine plastic debris on oceanic and coastal fronts that will represent a low cost, wide area method to help regional monitoring agencies guiding clean-up operations in areas of potentially high debris accumulation and whose conservation is threatened. Additionally, FRONTAL will produce a validation dataset that will be available for training machine learning algorithms and requirements refinement for satellite sensor design.

isardSAT will be in charge of providing information from SAR altimetry and Fully Focussed Delay Doppler processors that will be used over fronts in the areas of interest, mapping small-scale features on the ocean using CryoSat-2 and Sentinel-3 tracks, and eventually Sentinel-6 in later stages of the project for validation in other areas.


Plymouth Marine Laboratory, isardSAT, University of Tokyo, CNR




coast, ocean, remote sensing, altimetry