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FRONTAL: Satellite FRONTs for detection of Anthropogenic plastic Litter

plastic bottle in the ocean. photograph from UnSplash

Completed project

Project start: September 2020  |  Project end: September 2022
Funder: ESA
Principal Investigator: Dr Victor Martinez-Vicente
Fronts in coastal and oceanic regions are hot-spots for rich and diverse marine life, where floating marine debris also tends to accumulate. FRONTAL is developing a prototype for identifying areas at risk of accumulating plastic pollution to aid management of these areas.

The project is using state-of-the-art techniques that directly detect debris in the ocean using Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite data, which is validated using in-situ datasets. This is combined with front detection algorithms applied to themal, optical and SAR satellite imagery to provide an index of risk for the accumulation of marine plastic debris. The pathways of plastic pollution into the ocean are then investigated using numerical dispersion models.

PML is the lead partner of this project and is combining our unique capabilities in front detection with modelling at very high resolution near the coast to provide risk maps for accumulation of marine debris in developing countries. This includes a case study where we are working in collaboration with local stakeholders in Da Nang, Vietnam.


FRONTAL will provide a tool that local and regional policy makers can use to identify key areas where intervention is likely to be most effective.