ESA title

Eyes on Plastic

  • ACTIVITYFeasibility Study
  • STATUSCompleted
  • THEMATIC AREAMaritime 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 is used to receive the camera data mounted on poles to observe rivers

Current Status

After 12 months the Eyes on Plastic Feasibility activity was successfully concluded with a virtual Final Review and Presentation. It can be concluded that the proposed concept is technically feasible and commercially viable. Thus, ways to implement and demonstrate the Eyes on Plastic Solution are currently discussed. Together with key stakeholders the Eyes on Plastic team will work on the technical solutions and most promising business models in the future. Let’s keep our eyes on plastic and work towards a plastic-less society!

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 26 July 2022