‘Spy in the Sky’ technology to tackle illegal dumping of waste

The new service called Waste from Space is based on development of a semi-automated detection model utilizing satellite data (and machine learning algorithms), enabling the company to offer an effective and commercially viable geospatial intelligence tool that can detect serious waste crime.

Waste crime is increasingly causing significant damage to society and is estimated to cost the UK more than a billion pounds a year. It is estimated to cost all EU countries €72 – 90 billion per annum.

Ray Purdy, Director, Air and Space Evidence says, “Waste crime is highly lucrative – and can also be hard to detect. Governments need new investigatory approaches because at the moment they are several steps behind waste crime gangs. We will offer a much needed, innovative intelligence gathering and analysis service to governments, whereby we can identify waste crime that Governments are not aware of, bringing immense value to their work and enabling them to catch more waste crime gangs in the act.”

In 2016, the head of the Environment Agency in England called waste crime the “new narcotics”, commenting that “it feels to me like drugs felt in the 1980s: the system hadn’t quite woken up to the enormity of what was going on and was racing to catch up.” Interpol, Europol and the UN have identified it as one of the fastest growing areas of organized crime. It is increasingly recognized to have the potential to rival drug trafficking in terms of scale and profits. One Italian mafia gang is estimated to make as much money annually from waste crime as the global turnover of McDonald’s.

More than 1,000 illegal waste sites now spring up in England each year. One single site discovered in Northern Ireland is believed to contain 1.5 million tons of illegally deposited waste, which is significantly more municipal waste than the whole of Northern Ireland produces in a year (i.e. 969,157 tons in 2015-2016).

In 2016-2017 Air and Space Evidence received funding from the European Space Agency, Open Data Incubator for Europe (ODINE), and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency to conduct research and trials examining how this problem can be tackled using space technologies. Air and Space Evidence is now launching a much-needed waste crime monitoring service to governments.

Air and Space Evidence are Finalists of the European earth observation product of the year award 2017 (for ‘Waste from Space’). The winner will be announced by the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies on July 4, 2017.

Author: EARSC

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