Tracking shifting estuaries with remote sensing techniques to aid lifeboat rescue services

Bélen López Pardo, Ruaridh Clark, Gwilym Gibbons, Malcolm Macdonald, Ciara N. McGrath

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In certain areas of the world with large tidal ranges, rain and wind can cause the path of channels and estuaries to shift dramatically. Lifeboat rescue services must navigate through these areas in spite of the dangers it can entail. This work investigates the alternatives to provide regular mapping of the seabed, enabling these teams to reach casualties without becoming casualties themselves. Underwater Vehicles, SONAR systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are all considered viable options but satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radar are proven to be the most advantageous. To map the path of the estuary, images must be taken during low tide, therefore, data availability is assessed by studying the revisit time and matching this to the tidal status of the area of interest. Different satellite options are examined, including commercial and non-commercial but a specific focus is given to Sentinel-1 due to its free accessibility. The periodicity of the satellite coupled with the tidal behaviour causes intervals during the month where no usable images can be taken. The maximum number of days between consecutive useful images is found to be 12, with an average of 6 useful images per month. The periods where these intervals happen are also identified. Therefore, to meet the user needs, an auxiliary system must be implemented to assist the satellite and increase the number of useful images taken per month. The area of interest of this study is the Solway Firth due to its fast tidal movements and ranges.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2023
EventSPIE Sensors+Imaging 2023 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 3 Sept 20236 Sept 2023


ConferenceSPIE Sensors+Imaging 2023
Internet address


  • ocean sensing techniques
  • coastal features
  • synthetic aperture radar


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