How UAVs Are Changing Landfill Surveying

By Bradley Kruse

Landfill SurveyingEffective landfill management is essential to the quality of life in today’s modern society. There are a number key issues that concern landfills, including public health, environment, political and local economics. According to the EPA, the United States has generated an estimated  258 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2014, and that figure continues to rise to this day.

Because the increasing generation of municipal solid waste has nearly doubled since 1975, landfill management professionals are exploring all possible options to improve the efficiency of land use. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs for short, are proving to be an effective tool during that process.

Types of Imaging Technologies Available for UAV Systems

When using this technology for landfill surveying, it is crucial to keep in mind the different types of imaging technologies that are available for UAV systems as well as the pros and cons of each type of system. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), multispectral/hyperspectral imaging and ortho-photography are a few of the main imaging platforms that provide meaningful information for landfill surveying.

Let’s take a moment to zero in on these advanced technologies. LiDAR sensors yield valuable data by emitting hundreds of thousands of laser pulses per second to create a 3D point cloud that is incredibly accurate down to the centimeter level. The downside of LiDAR sensors is that they can be cost prohibitive for certain organizations. Both ortho-photography and multi/ hyperspectral imaging, on the other hand, are 2D imaging platforms that can be post-processed into 3D information. The downside to these platforms is that if there is any type of vegetation or overhead obstructions, the elevation data is very likely to be incorrect.

Benefits of Utilizing UAVs for Landfill Surveying

One of the main benefits of utilizing UAVs for landfill surveying is the cost/time savings when compared to the traditional method of surveying. For example, a 200-acre landfill can take multiple days if not weeks to complete by a licensed surveyor, but with a specialized UAV, the site can be flown, processed, and completed in a matter of a few hours. In terms of monetary value, this can bring survey costs down from upwards of $20,000 to below $8,000 depending on the size of the area being surveyed.

According to the EPA, there are a little over 3,000 active municipal waste landfills in the United States and since the EPA requires constant volumetric data, this creates a huge cost-savings opportunities for active landfills. Now managers can obtain incredibly accurate surveys in significantly less time, which allows them to make more informed, timely decisions when it comes to operating a landfill.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits for implementing UAVs into Landfill Surveying. Given the efficiency and relatively low cost of this emerging technology, landfill management professionals can easily analyze a large amount of accurate data and make more informed, data-driven decisions. At the end of the day, this unique tool will allow us to take better care of the active landfills that surround our communities.

Discover how Georgia Land Surveying can streamline your next landfill survey project with a UAV system. Give us a call today at (404) 255-4671.