Uses of UAV Technology in Waste Management Industry

Drones are a faster, efficient, and economical way to conduct high-resolution surveying. They can simplify operations such as garbage collection and landfill monitoring. For waste, management drones can keep you up to date with the site’s progress and productivity. It will allow you to make informed decisions for quality work and minimize operational risk. 

Challenges in traditional survey methods

Traditional methods use expensive equipment and a large workforce. Moreover, on foot surveys can take days together.

Before drones landfill managers had to spend thousands of dollars on a manned aircraft for aerial photogrammetry or hours walking to get a topographic survey of their site. 

Drones are revolutionizing the waste management industry

The drone takes hours instead of days as compared to traditional surveys. Drones and structure from motion (SfM) techniques are a better alternative to capture the data as they are a less labor-intensive and accurate depiction of the topography. SfM is a photogrammetric imaging technique that is used to estimate 3D structures from 2D images to create an accurate model of the area surveyed. 

Areas in which Drones can be used for Waste Management

  1. Landfill monitoring

Managing and monitoring landfills is a complicated process that needs planning, equipment, and compliances with government regulations. Environmental engineers need to ensure that landfills don’t contaminate the surroundings or pollute water resources. 

Drones can be used to collect high-quality data in real-time which can later be used to create 3D models of landfills for proper planning. 

  1. Airspace Calculation

Landfills have to keep the waste under the top-of-waste level (TOW level). On the basis of its specific cells are selected to overfill when required. Errors in this process can result in catastrophic conditions. For the environment around the landfill. 

Drones are a reliable method for airspace calculation. They can help in waste management by measuring overfill capacity and remaining airspace. 3D models are required for these volumetric calculations. This allows us to see the cross-sectional area of cells and landfills.

  1. Landfill Cell Management

Landfills have to achieve the maximum compaction rate for a single cell. Drones can be used to calculate the compaction rate while surveying a landfill. The data can be coupled with weighbridge data to calculate the density of waste in every cell to compare the volumes of waste in all cells.

  1. Garbage Collection

Dumpsites can be monitored using drones. They can identify litterbugs and collect littered garbage at public places like parks and beaches. Illegal industrial waste dumping can also be identified and evidence can be collected. 

  1. Cleaning of Power Lines

Flamethrowers can be added to drones to clean power lines to burn garbage like kites, plastic bags, lanterns, and etc. This process is very safe as compared to the manual approach of climbing pylons to clean them. 

  1. Identifying recyclable and non-recyclable garbage

Combining IoT Technology, artificial intelligence, and drone technology we can segregate recyclable and non-recyclable waste. This will help waste management organizations to automate many waste management tasks. 

  1. Reduce Combustion Risks

Drones equipped with thermal cameras can allow the landfill managers to measure temperatures across the site and highlight hotspots. The combustion risks can hence be minimized by taking the required steps in time.

Challenges for Implementation of Drone Technology for Waste Management

  1. With information comes more data to process and there is a need for more advanced equipment and knowledge. The copious amounts of data need a massive computer system to process the data.
  2. Technological barriers exist for managers as they have minimal technological or survey experience. 
  3. Initially, there is a need to spend hours before the flight to set the ground control points across the landfill for the drone to pick on. 

Getting Started with using Drone Technology for Waste Management

  1. Decide your goal of what you want to do with the drone data. 

Do you want to survey landfills, do volumetric analysis, or a combination of many tasks? With this information, you can determine what equipment, software, and skill you will need to achieve the task.

  1. Obtain right certifications, or get a Drone Pilot for the job. 

You need considerable knowledge to fly drones and know-how of rules and regulations.

  1. Choose hardware wisely

There are many drones available. Choose one considering your task, size of the area of work, and budget. 

Real-time kinematic (RTK) and post-processed kinematic (PPK) drones come with GPS correction technology which minimizes the need for the groundwork of placing control points beforehand. PPKs are more reliable. 

Based on the area of your landfill you can choose the type of drone. For example, for small areas, you can use multirotor, and for larger areas like more than 500 acres, you can use fixed winged drones.

If you want to perform mapping, you have to make sure that the camera you use has a good resolution. 

You will also have to get a computer system with the required capability to process the data.

  1. Choose the Right Software

The software also has to be chosen based on your knowledge of existing equipment, customer service requirements, and analytics. Cloud computing software eliminates the need for major computer upgrades.

  1. Be aware of the regulations in your country 

Make sure not to interfere with no-fly zones. You must remain within legal parameters.

  1. Take care of the weather before flying. 

Most drones can’t fly in rain and high gusts. Also, look for obstacles and birds in the area.