SWIPE - SWIR and drones for early detection of oil spills in ports

Context and objectives

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges is seeking solutions to perform accurate and fast detection of oil incidents in the port area. The port is polluted on a regular basis by oil which has a serious environmental and economic impact. Amongst the economic impacts are the costs for clean-up of the oil, which are related to its size, volume, the type of product and the location. These costs vary year to year, but on average we speak about a budget of 700K up to one million euro per year.

The main priorities for the Port of Antwerp-Bruges are the early detection of the spills (mainly extent, surface area and thickness) and follow up the spill while cleaning. The earlier the oil spill can be detected, the higher the chances are the culprit can be identified. This will be an incentive to the companies in the port to further reduce the risks of oil spills. Drones are seen as the ideal platform and are part of the port’s future strategy towards digitization. Starting by the end of 2022, drones are put into operation by DroneMatrix over different areas within the port.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

The main innovations within the project are considered threefold:

  • different cameras are used and a proper data fusion is required;
  • not much research has been done on the considered oil types, i.e. refined oils such as hydraulic oil, lubricating oil or diesel, in contrast to crude or heavy oils;
  • the focus on port environments, i.e. docks with dense traffic of ships or ships moored to a quay wall and surrounded with many concrete or steel infrastructure. These areas are very often well protected from current, waves, wind, swell, etc. which make them much different compared to the open sea where most of the cases in literature are focusing on.

Societal (including environmental) relevance 

An earlier clean-up of oil spills leads to lower harm to the environment. In addition, the probability increases to identify the culprit which increases the efforts companies will do to avoid oil spills (dissuasion effect). The topic fits in different UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the EU Action Plan: “Towards a Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil”.

Expected products and services

A prototype workflow to detect and delineate oil spills from a drone in a port environment (TRL 5-6). The latter is important because it is considered the current satellite-based solutions on the market are not applicable here due to several reasons linked to spatial resolution, the targeted oil types and the port environment. Moreover, the purpose is to develop a solution that is as much independent from cloud cover as possible so it can be used in an operational way throughout the year. Together with the workflow, protocols for camera settings and drone flights will be defined to be able to acquire the best possible data quality.

Potential users 

Port and/or enforcement authorities, emergency services, camera manufacturers, consulting agencies 

Belgian partner(s)
SCHEUNDERS Paul UA - Vision Lab - Visielab
Location: Country:
  • Belgium

  • Port of Antwerp-Bruges