- Officials at the Corralitos Regional Landfill just outside of Las Cruces, NM have turned to drone technology to monitor metrics of a new landfill cell at the site, as reported by KRWG.
- The South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) now relies on the drone — controlled by a smartphone app — to take highly-detailed photos of the 14.3 acre cell. According to a landfill operator, the drone only flies for eight minutes at a time and does not exceed an altitude of 400 feet.
- "Every tiny black dot on the phone image is a location where the drone has taken a picture," Don Gray, a landfill operator, told KRWG. These photos are then saved in SCSWA's records.
In the summer of 2016, the Ada County landfill in Boise, ID received permission to use a drone to collect 2-D images of its site, noting that the technology was significantly cheaper than hiring manned flights for aerial photography. Yet, despite the touted benefits of this technological advancement, drone usage has not become mainstream for landfill operators.
At a recent industry event, SCS Engineers CIO Jay Hatho noted the waste industry is "a few years out" when it comes to a widespread adoption of drone usage. The primary reason is how difficult it is to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — which also requires certification training to operate the drones. However the FAA has forecasted that 1.62 million commercial drones could be in operation by 2021 as other industries, like construction, pave the way for everyday drone usage. If the waste industry stays consistent in its efforts to utilize drones, it is likely that they will soon become a common utility to improve landfill monitoring and save money.
Outside of drone usage, other industry tech advancements like satellite-enabled greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring are hitting the market. Even the market for smart waste collection technologies could reach $223.6 million by 2025, according to Navigant Research, which indicates that industry leaders should keep their eyes peeled for the latest mechanics and robotics that can help increase efficiency.