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Using Drones For Data Collection

Rubidium Environmental became the first environmental consulting firm in Canada to utilize drones (otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)) to support data collection in difficult to reach or dangerous areas.

As the winter is upon us, keeping everyone safe is a priority. Roofs are often covered in snow and ice, making it difficult to sometimes identify hazards such as sky lights, or weak points in the roof.

As part of attaining an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA), emissions inventories of facilities must be created. First, a site plan is created showing property boundaries, building dimensions, heights, etc. While many facilities have official site plans showing the property lines, not all have up-to-date drawings which show the current building dimensions. Even less have drawings that show every single piece of roof top equipment, exhaust stacks, vents, etc – essentially the points where emissions are emitted from.

This is where a drone can be effective. Utilizing GPS technology, drones can efficiently map out the dimensions of the building, capture aerial photos showing the location of all points of discharge, and even measure individual stack dimensions. Using 4G technology, we are able to take photos of equipment name plates, and have them sent directly back to our office.

While the technology isn’t quite there yet to enable drones to collect flow measurements from exhaust stacks, we are excited about the opportunity to utilize drones for collection of noise measurements from stationary sources. For facilities that are required to prepare Acoustic Assessment Reports (AARs), this presents a unique opportunity as the measurement themselves are taken at a specified distance from the noise generating equipment.

One of the challenges in preparing Environmental Compliance Approval applications is getting good data. Quite often facilities have sources that are largely inaccessible; exhaust stacks coming out of the side of buildings, baghouse dust collectors that discharge 40 feet in the air with no access, etc. In the absence of accurate data, the outcome is usually to use conservative data to fill the gaps.

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