President's Blog

10 Apr 2018 14:10 Age: 1 year

Guest Blog | UAV Surveying for Landfill Sites - An Example from Iceland

Category: ISWA News, ISWA BLOG


Nicolas Marino Proietti, CEO and founder of ReSource International ehf., company specialized in environmental Engineering and services in the Nordic countries writes a guest blog on the utilization of UAVs for landfill monitoring. Nicolas is a French mechanical engineer (DTU) and is working on diverse projects mainly in the Nordic countries.

When talking about drones or UAVs, people might think first about the toys they got for Christmas or about military UAV systems used for bombing remote targets in dirty wars. However, recent technological advancements have also allowed professionals to access airframes and equipment that can offer a real change in how monitoring is performed.

Over the last three years, our Reykjavík-based company has developed a UAV program to deliver to our customers new services and more efficient data collection. A good example is when we do piles or material inventory. Instead of measuring many points with a standard handheld GPS in order to approximate the shape of a pile, we can now fly over with the UAV and recreate a precise 3D model of the pile that can be then calculated as a volume. The accuracy is much higher, the time taken is 10-20% of the manual method and the safety and ease of the work are also improved. The methodology is called photogrammetry which uses many RGB pictures of the ground and produces a 3D surface and a dense point cloud where each point have three dimensional geo coordinates. This is effective even for large areas. All data can then be worked or displayed within geographic information systems (GIS) programs, offering better understanding of their meaning.

In the context of our work with landfill monitoring both for filling monitoring and for gas collection monitoring, the same principles can be applied to daily operation. If surveys are done on a regular basis, we can improve follow-up of the landfilling process and optimize use of space while reducing costs of machine operation, loss of volume, legal planning, etc. It is also possible to collect information on waste density and compaction.

After a year of testing, we signed an agreement in March 2018 with the municipal waste management company SORPA bs. (for Greater Reykjavík) for monthly drone surveys at their landfill site. We have already developed in the past with SORPA advanced monitoring method for the landfill gas collection system which resulted in high resolution historical data on the quantity and quality of the collected landfill gas, which is upgraded and used as biofuel for vehicles in the capital area. These achievements have been only possible thanks to SORPA’s forward vision and their understanding on landfill challenges.

Another important benefit of UAVs is their modularity – it is possible to collect a wide range of data by changing the camera or sensors onboard a single airframe. For example if you add an NDVI (Near Infrared) camera, you can map vegetation growth on the landfill surface and focus efforts on how to improve it. 

We also work with thermal mapping and are beginning a project on using a laser sensor for real time methane concentration measurement. Today landfill gas emissions are measured from points at the surface and there is a consensus that this is not adequate for determining overall emissions from the landfill sites. UAVs could provide a more precise and consistent method to measure those emissions and give relatively accurate quantification. UAVs, which today are sometimes seen as an elaborate approach will soon be the new standard. Although some people see landfills as a thing of the past, they will still be there for many generations, and new technologies could help us solving some of the greatest issues with them.