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Drone Technology In Las Cruces Solid Waste Management

Charles Fiedler, P.E., Leed AP, stands on the site of the under-construction Chaparral Waste and Recycling Center doing a pre-flight check of a camera-equipped drone.

It’s a crisp, bright morning and a breeze is blowing at 8-10 mph. If the breeze becomes stronger, it could become a problem for the drone. So it’s important to get set up and move quickly with the project.

Fiedler is listening to a hand-held aviation radio tuned to the El Paso International Airport air traffic control to listen continuously to air traffic reports and weather. “The drone has to fly below 400 feet,” explains Fiedler. “We must avoid any air traffic; we cannot impact air space.”

When all systems are “go”, with the push of a button, a whirring sound fills the air and the small, lightweight, bright white drone rises 323 feet into the sky for a 30-minute flight, zinging back and forth dozens of times over the 10-acre site while taking hundreds of aerial photos.

Gordon Environmental/PSC, of Bernalillo, NM, has been using the drone for a couple of months, taking aerial photos of landfills and other solid waste management sites across New Mexico and the entire southwest, and find the drone to be most useful. To operate the drone, Fiedler is equipped with the drone controller, an iPad, and the aviation radio.

“We have a computer program called ‘Drone Deploy’ where we enter the parameters we want to fly (the exact GPS dimensions of the site),” explains Fiedler. “The same computer program manages when the photos are taken and a second program combines them into one spectacularly detailed aerial image of the site.”

The drone photo work has been commissioned by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) which is constructing of the solid waste transfer station to accept recycling, garbage and Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) from the residents of Chaparral and surrounding communities. The resulting aerial photo shows the SCSWA Board of Directors a comprehensive look at the construction progress of the facility and becomes a permanent part of the records of the SCSWA.

Green Connections is submitted by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), managing solid waste, recyclables, and fighting illegal dumping for residents and businesses in the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. You can reach the SCSWA at (575) 528-3800 or visit www.scswa.com