The solid waste industry is adopting drones to reduce costs, increase the accuracy of data collection, and speed up the entire process of landfill assessment. Here we highlight a few ways in which solid waste facilities can utilize drones in their day to day operations.
One large benefit of drones is the ability to create 3D models and geo-referenced photos. This means that large areas can be surveyed using orthophotography, the process of when an aerial photograph is geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map.
There are several practical ways solid waste facilities can take advantage of drones to save time and money.
REMOTE AREA INSPECTION
- Periodic inspections of more remote parts of a landfill, enabling the inspector to cover more terrain and seeing areas that are not necessarily easily traversed on foot
- Inspecting areas where getting a person in is either a safety risk or very difficult (the receiving pit at a waste-to-energy plant or transfer station, for example)
- Inspecting the interior and exterior of buildings, especially where access is difficult
- Map changes in landfill fill areas
- Tracking the size or location of a landfill work site
- Tracking the quality of the growth of cover vegetation at a landfill
- Assessing the earth dikes or outfalls (which may be hard to access) at large leachate or wastewater treatment ponds
- Documenting the presence or absence of certain forms of wildlife
- Landfill topography assessment
- Periodically surveying a site’s fence line, where parts may not be readily accessible, to determine if any new “neighbors” have appeared
- Assessing an accident in which hazardous materials are involved and access to the accident site is difficult
- Inspecting the public access road outside the facility for trash that has blown off vehicles
- Use of an infrared camera to spot sub-surface fires
- Learn more about thermal imaging with waste management here