- The Ada County landfill in Boise, ID has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use a drone or Small Unmanned Aircraft System to collect 2-D aerial images of the site.
- Landfill officials had previously hired manned flights to take aerial photos twice per year, at a cost of $20,000 per flight, and say that using the drone is significantly cheaper.
- Officials will be using the drone to track the growth of active landfill cells, monitor any potential perimeter issues, and map ground swell, compaction, or erosion.
Because drones are still relatively new, the regulatory approval process can be time-consuming. The landfill's application was submitted to the FAA for authorization nearly a year ago and approved in April. Two employees also had to complete certification training to operate the drone.
One final manned flight is still scheduled so the county can compare its data to what the drone captured. This fall, once temperatures drop, officials also plan to test the drone's ability to detect hotspots. The county is providing residents with full information about the program, including flight logs, on its website.
As drone technology becomes more accessible, and the FAA develops new standards, other landfills will likely follow Ada County's example. While this landfill monitoring method hasn't been widely practiced across the industry before, it could eventually be transformative—especially for sites with thousands of acres looking for a more affordable and efficient method for keeping track of operations. Industries such as construction have seen the game-changing advantages of flying drones in order to monitor sites and collect information, and Construction Dive recently highlighted how drones can be used in versatile ways across an industry.
In light of the FAA recently issuing its commercial drone regulations, Identified Technologies CEO Dick Zhang said to Construction Dive, "Part of why the regulations are so beautiful is that just about anybody can become certified and trained to use one of these."