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Reducing the risk of oil spill disasters is essential for protecting the environment and reducing economic losses. Oil spill surveillance constitutes an important component of oil spill disaster management. Advances in remote sensing technologies can help to identify parties potentially responsible for pollution and to identify minor spills before they cause widespread damage. Due to the large number of sensors currently available for oil spill surveillance, there is a need for a comprehensive overview and comparison of existing sensors. Specifically, this paper examines the characteristics and applications of different sensors. A better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of oil spill surveillance sensors will improve the operational use of these sensors for oil spill response and contingency planning. Laser fluorosensors were found to be the best available sensor for oil spill detection since they not only detect and classify oil on all surfaces but also operate in either the day or night. For example, the Scanning Laser Environmental Airborne Fluorosensor (SLEAF) sensor was identified to be a valuable tool for oil spill surveillance. However, no single sensor was able to provide all information required for oil spill contingency planning. Hence, combinations of sensors are currently used for oil spill surveillance. Specifically, satellite sensors are used for preliminary oil spill assessment while airborne sensors are used for detailed oil spill analysis. While satellite remote sensing is not suitable for tactical oil spill planning it can provide a synoptic coverage of the affected area.
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