ESA title


  • ACTIVITYDemonstration Project
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREAEnvironment, Wildlife and Natural Resources, Maritime and Aquatic

Objectives of the service

PLESS demonstration project aims to further develop space-based services and assess their commercial viability for the identification of floating marine plastics, in support of reducing environmental impact of marine litter.

Services will combine satellite data and oceanographic models to produce added-value information on marine pollution in the form of plastics.

Users and their needs

A distinct set of users / costumers from different segments have been engaged, helping on the consolidation of requirements that are being used to tailor the services’ development. 

The most relevant needs that have been identified include:

  • Surveying floating marine debris and support to plastic collection actions.

  • Monitoring of marine plastics in port areas and establishment of early warning systems 

  • Supporting the assessment of the environmental state of the areas of interest (touristic areas, protected areas, etc.)

  • Assess the origin and potential destination of floating marine plastics

  • Identify areas prone to the accumulation of floating plastics

The engaged users are from Portugal, Spain and Argentina, thus covering both sides of the Atlantic Ocean:

Service/ system concept

The PLESS services are being implemented having as reference an EO based marine plastic identification service that GMV has been developing for the last years. The PLESS services will combine satellite data, ground truth data and oceanographic models to produce added-value products for the project users.

In addition, the PLESS services are being implemented in an online platform (Geobrowser) to which the users will have access to, and that will allow them the services that better fit their needs. 

The PLESS services are:

  • Marine Plastic Detection based on satellite data - providing continuous monitoring of floating marine plastics on users’ selected areas of interest. 

  • Marine Plastic Tracking based on detection service - providing continuous monitoring of floating marine plastics on users’ selected areas of interest together with ocean circulation models, aiming to understand where plastics are headed and where they can come from.

  • Single order request service - to identify areas prone / not prone for floating marine plastics accumulation

These services are leveraged by a service chain which combines various types of data (earth observation imagery, ground truth data, ocean circulation models) to output the location of patches of marine floating plastics.

Space Added Value

This project will run based mainly in Earth Observation images, as they offer a relevant number of benefits:

  • Possibility to generate multispectral compositions from various spectral bands allowing to distinguish the most common types of plastics

  • Possibility of temporal analysis, allows monitoring of changes occurring in the places of interest, as well as the ability to analyse data from the past

  • Digital image processing allows the production and analysis of results in a fast and automated way

  • Reduction of monitoring costs when compared to traditional monitoring methods (e.g. vessel surveys), even more considering that only freely available imagery (Sentinel 2) will be used

Current Status

The project is at its initial stage, leveraged by the lessons learnt during the previous feasibility study, in which a relevant number of activities has been developed, illustrated by the images below (a man-made target that has been built and deployed in the Vigo Port Area, to confirm the service’s ability to detect floating macroplastics).


Status Date

Updated: 20 February 2024