How Drones are Helping With Waste Management

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drones
Don Gray of Gordon Environmental | Krwg.org

Drones represent a considerable contribution to the management and monitoring of waste sites. Some U.S. counties are now using unmanned quadcopters to take aerial photos of landfills and provide real-time data for waste management operators.

While their increasing popularity among civilians is driven mainly by their entertainment value, drone applications in certain industries are dictated by their economic value. For waste management, and mainly the monitoring of waste disposal sites, drone tech offers cost effective, low-risk data acquisition. The drones themselves are versatile in use. They are also very practical and easily take high-resolution photos from the most crucial angles.

Drones to Gather Aerial Data About Landfills

SCSWA, the South Central Solid Waste Authority, has turned to drones to survey waste disposal sites in the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A demonstration was conducted by Don Gray of Gordon Environmental/PSC, formerly Gordon Environmental, Inc. (GEI) which is a company based in New Mexico specializing in landfill engineering and environmental monitoring services.

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The lightweight drone Gray used could fly for about 8.5 minutes to cover the 14.3-acre new landfill cell at Corralitos Regional Landfill, located at about 15 miles west of Las Cruces, which is owned and operated by SCSWA and serves the city and the entire county.

The drone, which can’t go higher than 400 feet as per FAA regulations, took 67 highly-detailed photos. These valuable volumetrics (photos from certain elevations) would allow the SCSWA to get accurate data about remaining space in the landfill cell and plan further developments accordingly.

Ada County, Idaho, also resorted to UASs to monitor landfills, instead of the costly manned flights it’s been relying on. The county has acquired FAA approval to utilize drones, on a consistent basis, to collect hi-res images of landfills and create 3D models.

Other Uses of Drone Tech in Waste Management Around the World

Dubai’s Waste Management Department announced its plans to utilize drones to monitor dumpsites and development projects. The drones would also be used to identify litterbugs and potentially collect abandoned garbage left on beaches and in the desert. At present operating only one drone as a trial, the Dubai WMD intends to acquire two more later this year.

In Japan, as the central government adjusts regulations to support commercial use of drones, prefectures starts implementing new drone uses. Ibaraki’s government began using drones to monitor illegal dumping of industrial waste.

Wang Hu | VCG | TheVerge.com

In China, a much more radical approach to utilizing drones against rubbish has been taken. A power company–instead of having its workers waste time and go through the risk of climbing pylons to clean the power lines barehanded–deployed flame-spewing UAVs to do the job.

They outfitted drones with flamethrowers and use them to burn garbage, such as plastic bags, kites, and lanterns, off high-voltage power lines.

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