Drone monitoring to survey and assess waste management infrastructure

Aerial images are a great tool to survey any physical infrastructure. In the SCIP Plastics project, we have been using drones to survey and assess the Rajbandh final disposal site. In case of this open disposal site, drone images are critical, since not all sections of the site are safe to access. The images can help to determine the expanse of the waste body over time, to spot any waste leaks (solid and liquid) into the surrounding area, and oversee construction measures happening at the site.

Here are two drone images from March 2023 (left, © Florian Wehking) and April 2024 (right, © Noor Alam). We can clearly see how much closer the waste body moved towards the boundaries, especially in the north. Furthermore, a new larger leachate pond has emerged in the south-eastern corner just outside the boundary of the site. This is a concerning development and illustrates the need to improve containment measures at the site. The project team of Working Group III (lead: Pangkaj Kumar Mahanta) is currently working on improving embankments and the fence line.

After seeing how useful these drone images can be, we now started to use them in the urban environment to survey the state of secondary transfer points and stations in Khulna city. To create a baseline, on the 30th March 2024 we started with the open transfer stations. Here are the images of Boyra Azizer STS (left, © Noor Alam) and KDA Mosque STS (right, © Noor Alam).

Currently, we are developing operational guidelines and containment measures to reduce the spreading of plastic waste from transfer points and stations. Drone monitoring will be used to evaluate the impact of these measures.

Overall, the recent surveys illustrated that drones can be a great tool for city cooperations and public institutions to monitor and assess solid waste management infrastructure. The SCIP Plastics project has already developed basic standard operating procedures for the monitoring and will test these over the next months.