Eyes on Plastic

  • ACTIVITYFeasibility Study
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREAEnvironment, Wildlife and Natural Resources, Maritime and Aquatic

Objectives of the service

Image credit: EOMAP/Fraunhofer IGD, Project : Eyes on Plastic

Eyes on Plastic investigates the feasibility of a multi-sensor service solution to detect and track aquatic plastic litter from local to global scale throughout the water column. However, creating data does not make a sustainable business model. Therefore, a full service is designed around it. The thorough requirements analysis is followed by the establishment of operational analytics, interfaces and cloud-based databases and end up in an automatic online web application. This allows the users, third parties or even the broader public to access, visualize and analyse all the data which are being measured by the different techniques, in real-time.

Users and their needs

The European Space Agency has established a cooperation with key players in the fight against plastic pollution, amongst others the WWF Germany, The Ocean Cleanup (The Netherlands), The Sea Cleaners (France), The Plastic Bank (Canada), ENEL (Italy), Decom North Sea, and the Mirpuri Foundation (Portugal). Furthermore, the Eyes on Plastic vision is supported directly by the German UFZ, XYLEM (US and global), the IHO (global), and has brought in a dedicated use case with Lactec Brazil. 

Several key challenges are mentioned by all users:

  • Effective and continuous mapping and monitoring of plastic hot spots
  • Globally applicable solution that provides detailed information
  • Focus on rivers as they play a major role for the input of marine litter
  • Quantitative measures that can be compared over time and across sensors
  • Standardized reporting output to support international monitoring obligations and procedures resulting in a monitoring system

Service/ system concept

Eyes on Plastic combines space assets, on-site sensors and platforms as well as novel IT and algorithms to make the difference in understanding and quantifying aquatic plastic litter.

Image credit: EOMAP/Fraunhofer IGD, Project : Eyes on Plastic

Space Added Value

By flying high with satellites, drones, installed camera systems,  and diving deep with Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles equipped with an optical sensor and microplastic lab, plastic litter can be monitored at all angles and scales. 

The following space assets will be tested: 

  • SatEO data including optical multi-spectral and hyper-spectral sensor satellite data at high and very high spatial and temporal resolution such as Sentinel-2 and PRISMA will be used for coastal zones and open ocean surface water monitoring
  • SatNav for navigation of drones and the underwater ROV carrying the micro-plastic lab and optical sensor
  • SatCom may be used to receive the camera data mounted on poles to observe rivers, if located in remote areas.

Current Status

Eyes on Plastic was kicked off on 1st of March 2021 with the aim to provide a service solution combining multiple technical components into a joint mapping and monitoring solution for plastic in the aquatic environment. Currently the technical feasibility study is developed based on the discussions with more than 8 users.

The next Eyes on Plastic event is the virtual Eyes on Plastic workshop to be held on 9th of June 2021. Key stakeholders’ views, challenges and potential business models will be discussed.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 21 May 2021 - Created: 21 May 2021