Cleaning the Planet

Identifying illegal waste sites from space


UK startup Air and Space Evidence—the self-proclaimed “world’s first space detective agency”—is launching a new “Waste from Space” service that will use satellite imagery to identify illegal deposits of waste on Earth.

The service is an application of the company’s newly developed semi-automatic detection model, which combines satellite data with machine learning algorithms to locate large swathes of unidentified materials—the worst of which can contain up to hundreds of thousands of tons of trash.

Air and Space Evidence received funding this year from the European Space Agency, Open Data Incubator for Europe, and the Scottish EPA to research its waste surveillance capability and run preliminary tests. In product trials, the algorithms were 71 percent at pinpointing unlicensed waste sites.

Waste crimes such as illegal dumping cause significant environmental degradation and public health risks, and are estimated to cost the UK £604 million each year in cleanup costs and lost revenue from taxes, according to a recent study from the Environmental Services Association.

By locating illegal landfills and waste crime operations, “Waste from Space” will enable governments and municipalities to intervene before irrevocable environmental damage occurs and to save millions for the waste and resource management industry.

“Waste from Space” has brought Air and Space Evidence to the finals of the 2017 European earth observation product award. The winner will be announced July 4.

Photo Credit: DigitalGlobe

Posted in: got geoint?   Tagged in: Civil, Remote Sensing

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