Landfill Management Made Easier With Drones/UAVs

Environmental Remediation And Landfill Management

The job of managing and maintaining a landfill site is a difficult one that requires constant planning inspection, reporting and readjusting in order to best make use of the area.

As this can be a time-consuming venture with a lot of hard work and careful collaboration, it helps to be able to use the very best tools and software to improve performance.

In May 2015, GIS became involved in a government-funded project to determine the potential of drones and cloud software in the maintenance of these landfill sites.

The efforts are currently one year into a 2 year period, but some interesting lessons are already being learned.

The use of drones in environmental remediation has great potential and GIS aimed to prove this

Drones for Environmental MonitoringDrone mapping helps site managers by providing plenty of up-to-date data on land use and potential problems, without the need for difficult human effort.

This new approach has led to more accuracy in the data that has been collected, but also the ability for all stakeholders to access that data and communicate on the process.

The use of drones can mean high-end digital technology and immediate access to the cloud.

The GIS cloud is a great tool for landfill remediation projects because it provides greater coordination between project leaders, shareholders, government agencies and anybody else that needs to get hold of the data quickly.

The creators of GIS cloud set up a trial project with local landfill owners and the Environmental Protection Agency to work on the monitoring and mapping of local sites and better understand their situation.

With this software and the use of drones, it was hoped that these clients would then be able to see the benefit of landfill monitoring over a 2 year remediation period, with annual and semi-annual reports.

Because of the legal implications of the study, it was funded by EPA, who also asked to see reports.

There were plenty of challenges to overcome, but also a lot to learn

Collaboration with the key obstacle when setting up this project. A cloud system of accessing data is a great idea and these drones can utilise that brilliantly, but it can be quite a departure from traditional methods and requires a new approach to communication across the board.

With this landfill project, they needed to find a way to include every relevant party and ensure effective workflow. This meant placing the staff and management on the same page and also bringing in external parties – like those government representatives.

These teams were keen to see a more efficient approach than the current desktop system, which required long hours of manual changes and transfers.

To test out the new approach to workflow and communication, the surveyors took drones out to the landfill site to map out the area.

These high-end UAVs were equipped with technology that was able to create accurate digital terrain models with detailed ortho-mosaic data.

The combined images then created the base map that can then be used as a basis for all the collaborators.

This basic information was then adapted using the map editor on the GIS cloud system to provide more intricate layers of information and create useful attachments, such as photos and PDFs.

From there, the use of software just grew.

The map viewer tool shared this data to all necessary recipients for further assessment.

There were also suggestions to take the layers of data further with the use of the Maple software. This provided greater terrain imaging and the chance to work with geologists for a wider approach.

These geologists also used Mobile Data Collection to pin locations of important samples. With all of this combined, the maps and images being shared were more informative and easier to work with.

The conclusions

It was clear from the work with the cloud software and data sharing experiments with the landfill maps that there was great potential in using the approach to save time and increase workflow efficiency.

There was little time wasted on paperwork, files were shared in an instant and everyone had an equal view.

There is still work to be done to see the full effect of the project, but it is immediately clear that these drones and the software tested really can change the way that landfill sites are mapped and managed.

The use of drones in environmental remediation may only be in its infancy right now, but it is sure to develop into a normal procedure.

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