Environmental testing takes flight

 

Mackay Regional Council is embracing new technology to improve safety and upskill employees – and it is all thanks to drones.

Since November 2020 Mackay Regional Council Waste Services have introduced drones to improve their environmental testing across their landfill sites.

Mackay Regional Council Chief Operating Officer of Water and Waste Services, Cameron Jessup said Terra Sana Consultants used drones in November last year to monitor gas at council’s active and closed landfills.

“The report and images provided by them met council’s needs and made a large difference to the number of internal resources needed to complete the survey by foot.

“We are also using drones to undertake volumetric surveys and photographic surveys, and these have made a significant difference in cost reduction and efficiencies,” they said.

A volumetric survey is the comparison of the results of two or more topographical surveys conducted at different points in time. The survey accurately measures the volume of a stockpile.

The drone uses an infrared system to measure levels of different atmospheric gases in the area. 

Although the presence of gases doesn’t pose a threat to residents or the environment, Council collects the data every six months to identify and monitor any changes.

Some of the benefits of the use of drones for Waste Services include a reduced number of resources needed to complete gas and volumetric surveys by walking the landfills, which means there is a reduction in Workplace Health and Safety risk to staff completing the surveys.

“Council is always looking at ways to improve its practices and provide a safer working place.

“By taking advantage of this new technology, we can further develop the skills of our staff, reduce WHS risk and improve processes and practices in the workplace,” Mr Jessup said.

To date Mackay Regional Council uses drones for volumetric, photographic and gas surveys.

“Sometimes it is quicker to do a volumetric survey by foot if it’s a small job but generally drone technology has improved efficiency in completing volumetric surveys for landfills.

“It’s much quicker to do gas surveys by drone and the reporting and imagery assists to provide better visual reports.”

Before the use of drones, monitoring was undertaken by a staff member walking across the landfills with a handheld monitor. It also limits the amount of vehicle travel time required and reduces the council’s carbon footprint.

“The senior Environmental Officer would normally do the gas survey and now has more time to focus on other tasks.”

Mr Jessup said using the photographic drone surveys are a more cost-effective option to using aircraft to complete aerial photography projects.

Mackay Regional Council are considering water sampling as a future area for drone use.

 

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