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UAS4Litter - Low-cost Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) for marine litter coastal mapping


Title: UAS4Litter - Low-cost Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) for marine litter coastal mapping 

Coordinators at INESCCGil Gonçalves

Co-Coordinators: Ana Filipa da Silva Bessa

Project Team: Ana Filipa Bessa (UC&UC-MARE); Gil Gonçalves (UC&INESCCoimbra); Luísa Gonçalves (IPL&INESC-Coimbra) Paula Sobral (UNL&NOVA.ID-MARE)

Date of approval: 06-07-2018

Dates start/end: 04-10-2018 / 03-10-2021

Total Eligible Cost: 204 967.70€

EU Financial Support:

National Financial Support: 204 967.70€

Project Code: PTDC/EAM-REM/30324/2017

Region of intervention: 

BeneficiariesINESC Coimbra - Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores de Coimbra, Universidade de Coimbra, NOVA.ID.FCT - Associação para a Inovação e Desenvolvimento da FCT



The amount of Marine Litter (ML) in the marine environment is exponentially growing, with more than 80% being composed by plastic debris. Recent studies estimating that more than 5 million tones can potentially enter the ocean and coastal areas as marine debris. Therefore, understanding the levels of marine pollution in order to mitigate this threat has been one of the main topics for the European agencies that need to be urgently addressed. Since traditional approaches for marine litter monitoring in coastlines are based on visual counts in a limited area (100m transects), which its time consuming and not efficient, novel techniques needs to be developed in order to help track marine litter from the coast. In this context, UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) provide new opportunities for environmental monitoring and research by offering a cost effective aerial platform for autonomous detection, inspection and track survey of marine litter in coastal areas.

The main goal of the project is focused on the development of a UAS-based cost effective integrated system (software and hardware) for mapping and monitoring marine litter. The target area for this development work is the central coast of mainland Portugal (town of Figueira da Foz, three sandy beaches with contrasting levels of marine pollution and urbanization pressures). Two potential solutions will be tested in terms of a relationship of mapping performance, autonomy and price.

This project will provide an integrated approach for the creation of new tools and methods to assess the levels of marine litter in coasts in order to reduce the searching time for monitoring and collection.

The project will pay particular attention to the transfer of knowledge and dissemination of the results to the whole community, including stakeholders, scientists, business, public administrations and civil society. The findings of UAS4Litter will be translated into practical guidance for mapping and monitoring marine litter on coastlines to a wide range of end-users, which is crucial for mitigation of marine litter pollution.