Ireland to Use Drones to Curb Illegal Dumping

Ireland is a country famous for it’s lush green landscapes and breathtaking coasts.  But much of that natural beauty is under threat because of careless human deeds.  Many Irish communities are facing problems of fly tipping, otherwise known as the illegal dumping of waste and trash.  Fly tipping has cost local governments and private citizens millions of dollars a year to clean up.  It poses great risks to the environment by inviting invasive pests into communities.  This in turn can lead to personal health problems.  Not to mention that it is extremely unpleasant to look at, lowering the overall value of communities.

It has become such a major issue that a €3 million Anti-Dumping Initiative has been set in place to help cleanup and eliminate further dumping.  €1,300 of that funding (a very minor fraction of it) went into the purchase of a drone for Waterford City and County Council to be used to help authorities monitor and enforce the ADI.  The drone purchased was a DJI Phantom, a small quadrocopter with a camera that hangs from it’s underside. 

The drone can stay airborne collecting data for about 20 minutes at a time.  The camera can send a live feed back to the operator, or store the data to be viewed later.  Drone batteries are notoriously short, and 20 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time in which data can be collected.  However, the amount of square footage that the drone can cover in that short amount of time is tremendous compared to what a person could manually cover.

Senior executive engineer for Waterford City and County Council, Niall Kane, said they have been using the drone “at least once a week, to help identify the scale and extent of waste on various sites and to pinpoint unauthorized dumping locations.”  He went on further to say that the drone has provided them with the “ability to survey large areas far faster than on foot and its capacity to obtain a bird’s eye view of waste on the ground which makes it easier to quantify larger deposits of waste.”

The drone provides authorities not only a visual idea of what they are dealing with, but a precise GPS guided map of the dumping regions.  Using this information they are able to properly plan clean up methods and get an idea of where to target preventative measures, such as high definition stationary surveillance cameras.  And the program seems to be working well.  A spokeswomen for the Environmental Protection Agency said that since the implementation of the ADI, “The number of waste enforcements initiated by 31 local authorities rose from 11,900 in 2016 to 13,300 the following year. In the same period, the number of waste prosecutions nationally rose from 370 to more than 630.”

With that high of an increase in waste enforcement a few things are happening.  Firstly, the communities are making money.  Each enforcement comes with a hefty fine, anywhere between €300 to €1,500.  Secondly, fewer violations are occurring.  Those who dump are becoming aware that their misdeeds will no longer be tolerated.  They realize that it would be a more financially sound option to properly dispose of their waste.  And lastly, the communities are getting cleaned up.  Benefiting the overall image and health of the towns.

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