In a deal that resembles something more out of a James Bond film than real life, a “space detective agency” has been hired by the Government to spot illegal waste sites throughout the country.
In England alone more than 1,000 illegal waste sites appear each year.
A single site in Northern Ireland is expected to contain 1.5 million tonnes of waste. The country itself produces less than that figure in municipal waste in a single year.
It costs the UK more than £1 billion a year to identify and mop up illegal waste operators, with £604 million of that figure from England alone.
Working in operations in England and Wales, Air & Space Evidence has so far been able to identify a range of illegal sites and is currently working with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency on four pilots to monitor both licensed and unlicensed sites.
In Northern Ireland, the company’s satellites managed to identify previously unknown sites in a proof of concept trial where 71 per cent of sites were shown to be illegal.
Ray Purdy, the company’s founder and director, in conversation with Materials Recycling World, said:
We combined a variety of techniques from both radar and optical satellite sensors, aided by mapping data, to discriminate standard land use types, concentrating on anomalies. We effectively focused on finding the needle by eliminating the haystack.
“Our technique discards the vast majority of items in the search area and allows us to isolate a realistic number of suspicious areas for further close-up satellite investigation.”
The company stated that satellites are able to identify something as small as a manhole cover at nearly any location on Earth and at almost any time.
Specialists can then consider past viewings using data archives and can then undertake a pro-active intelligence gathering operation to identify unlawful sites.