New university project aiming to end slavery – from space

The University of Nottingham are trying to use space in their efforts against slavery (Picture: Uni of Nottingham)

A new project run by the University of Nottingham is hoping to put an end to slavery – by looking at the planet from space.

According to a study run by the Global Slavery Index, there are currently 45.8 million slaves working across the world.

‘Slavery from Space’ relies on researchers and volunteers to look through satellite images of several different countries.

India is one of the main focuses of the study as the Global Slavery Index estimates there is an estimated 18 million slaves currently working in the country.

The main aim of the programme is to provide intelligence to understand how slavery is being used on a large scale and to provide aid.

Speaking about the project, Rights Lab Research Director Professor Kevin Bales said: “This project is hugely exciting as now anyone in the world can fight slavery from space, and this is just the beginning.”

Bethany Jackson, a PhD student in the School of Geography at the university, is studying the scale and impact of the brick kiln industry, using a range of satellite imagery.

Bethany said: “‘Slavery from Space’ will grow as we add more imagery and seek other signs of slavery in the future.

“To continue taking part people can also participate in a distance-learning MA in Slavery and Liberation that begins in September and is the first of its kind in the world or take our free online course that includes a unit on the use of geospatial technology to fight slavery.”

The University of Nottingham.

The programme uses the satellite imagery to focus on the traditional brick making industry, which is one of the biggest industries for slavery in the world today.

Satellite imagery can monitor brick kilns, as they are easily visible and will use this to locate and monitor where possible slavery could be taking place.

Dr Jessica Wardlaw from the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, is working on the use of geospatial science to tackle modern slavery.

She said: “Geospatial techniques have now emerged that help NGOs to collect data remotely.

“The use of satellite imagery, captured almost continuously in both space and time, is an important innovation for the human rights sector.

“Satellite imagery has never been more cheaply or freely available from sources such as Google Maps.

“But while satellites successfully automate data collection, computers remain inferior to even the most untrained human eye for analysing images to identify patterns.

“Currently, the growth in volume of satellite images easily outpaces the amount of human resource available to process it so we have turned to crowdsourcing.”

By the end of last month, the programme uncovered 6,026 classification which have been added to the initial 396 images that were previously uncovered.

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