Space Waste Detectives


I love Star Trek. That includes the original series, Next Generation, and Voyager. Deep Space Nine not so much. I love Star Wars. I won’t list them all here. I binge-watched the entire Battlestar Galactica series reboot a few weeks ago. From my backyard, I can see rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Space fascinates me.

So when an email comes to my in box with the subject line, “Space Sleuths Seek to Tackle Waste Crime Wave” the feeling of weightlessness overcomes me.

The email was from the CEO of a company out of the United Kingdom called Air and Space Evidence (ASE). ASE says it’s the “world’s first Space Detective Agency.” They are launching a new service using ‘spy in the sky’ satellite technologies to detect waste crime.” Its new service called “Waste from Space” is based on a semi-automated detection model that uses satellite and map data from open sources and machine learning algorithms to detect unlawful waste dumping sites. According to ASE, waste crime is estimated to cost the UK more than one billion pounds a year and cost all European Union countries 7290 billion euros a year.

Ray Purdy

Ray Purdy, founder and director of Air & Space Evidence

ASE CEO, Ray Purdy says, “Waste crime is highly lucrativeand 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.”

ASE describes finding illegal waste sites as being a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. They can be concealed, be different shapes and sizes, and be in a wide variety of locations. So, they combined a variety of techniques from both radar and optical satellite sensors, aided by mapping data, to discriminate standard land use types and concentrate on anomalies. They focus on finding the needle by eliminating the haystack. The technique discards the vast majority of items in the search area and allows them to isolate a realistic number of suspicious areas for close-up satellite investigation. In the product trials, 71% of sites were identified as potential illegal waste sites and were proven to be so.

This is definitely a company and technology to keep our eyes on. According to in 2011, the United States had nearly 1.5 million tons of illegally dumped waste.

I’m saying this out loud, in front of my keyboard, “Space Sleuths, The Final Waste Frontier.”MSW_bug_web



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