Landfill Airspace Utilization Insights

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Airspace Utilization Factor (AUF)

A Guide to Continuous Improvement

You Will Learn

  • A lean approach to continuously improving AUF.
  • 7 methods to improve AUF
  • 3 ways to measure AUF

Executive Summary

Improving AUF results in significant cost savings to landfill operations. There are many ways to improve AUF, each varying in complexity and cost. Implementing Lean Methodology helps landfill managers make continuous improvements and quantify the results. 

Lean can bring tremendous value to any organization including landfills, but many landfills don’t have the tools to regularly measure AUF and therefore cannot quantify the efficiencies created by operating improvements. 

Drones are used in a huge variety of settings, everything from agriculture to the Olympics. Have you considered putting one to work at your landfill? I’ve created a list of the most common uses for drones at waste management facilities. Drones are user-friendly tools and are revolutionizing landfill airspace operations. Early-adopters aren’t looking back!

1 – Improve Public Awareness

We all know drones collect beautiful imagery.  These pictures and videos are helpful to waste management professionals engaging their community. Whether educating students at local schools or creating site safety orientations; drone imagery will wow your audience.

2 – Measure Methane Emissions

It’s no secret that landfills are large emitters of methane. Great work is being done to reduce emissions at landfills. You may want to know how much methane your landfill emits or find fugitive emissions. This is safely- and easily-completed with a high-end drone and a miniaturized gas sensor.

3 – Prevent Fires

A drone with an infrared (thermal) sensor can detect surface hots-pots in the landfill.  Flying an entire cell in a few minutes at the end of the day provides peace of mind. It provides assurance that there will be no fires overnight.

4 – Calculate Landfill Airspace Utilization Factor (AUF)

Time series drone data can be used to calculate airspace used in the cell.  Correlating air space with weigh scale data allows managers to determine density and improve operating efficiencies.

5 – Plan Future Development

High resolution imagery and terrain models are valuable for planning future landfill construction. Whether it’s completing detailed design of the next cell, or creating closure plans; the information will be used many times.

6 – Measure Everything

Need to measure something? You can likely measure it from your desk, without stepping outside. Calculating the volume in compost windrows, the wood chip pile, or estimating the amount of tires on-site, is quick and painless. If you’ve wondered how many fridges and freezers are on-site, now you can count them from your drone map, too.

7 – Ensure Compliance

Regulatory bodies require annual volume submissions; which are created from drone data.  In addition to reporting, there are many operating criteria in landfill approvals. Drones can help with everything from ensuring proper drainage to tracking where specific waste ends up. Drone data helps landfill managers prove their sites are operating in compliance, and provides early detection of many problems.

8 – Reduce Costs

Low cost drones and their rapid data collection rate lower operating costs for landfills. Traditional GPS surveying and machine mounted GPS, both cost more than a well-executed drone program. Using modern drones empowers the landfill operations teams to fly themselves, reducing the reliance on 3rd parties.

9 – Improve Safety

Last, but definitely not least, drones improve safety in many ways. Drones remove people from harm’s way by eliminating the need to walk over the active cell to take measurements and investigate. This, in turn, eliminates interaction between people and heavy equipment. It also eliminates the all-too-common slips, trips and falls of walking on rough terrain. If you made it this far, I hope this list helps convince you that using a drone will move your operation forward.  The above reasons are not exhaustive, there are many more uses that haven’t been included. Please don’t be shy. Go ahead and share any success stories you have had with the community by commenting below!