Council using drone to tackle fly-tipping and litter

A local authority is embracing cutting-edge technology in its battle against fly-tipping and illegal dumping.

The Phantom drone that is being used in an anti-litter campaign in Waterford since last summer.

Waterford City and County Council has been using a drone to accumulate information on unlawful waste disposal since last summer.

Senior executive engineer at environment Niall Kane said the DJI Phantom model was purchased last July, with the €1,300 cost provided by the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Environment under an anti-dumping initiative.

The Chinese-built model has an operating temperature of -10C to -50C and a power consumption of 3.12W, meaning it stays airborne for about 20 minutes.

The drone’s take-off weight stands at 1,200g and has an angular velocity, or yaw rotation, of 200 degreess with an ascent/descent speed of 6m/s, and maximum flight velocity of 10m/s.

The drone can send back live footage as well as store data for later analysis.

Mr Kane said the council has been deploying the drone “at least once a week, to help identify the scale and extent of waste on various sites and to pinpoint unauthorised dumping locations”.

Its main benefit is 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”.

Having a high-resolution camera, it assists with GIS (geographical information systems) mapping.

Mr Kane said these maps and other drone footage help the council follow up leads extracted from websites such as DoneDeal or Facebook that may suggest unauthorised activities such as car trading being perpetrated.

While no drone footage has yet been directly involved in court evidence, it has led to several notices of fines being executed.

Mr Kane said as environment personnel presently operate the drone on a non-licensed basis, they are prone to stringent IAA imposed limitations.

“So, last year, we also commissioned a fixed-wing aircraft on three occasions to take aerial photographs of larger scale sites or sites where drone flight is restricted,” he said.

Conducted in conjunction with the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authority, they cost about €700 per flight.

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