UK Drones Help Police Find People Illegally Dumping Trash

Many cities in the UK are now using drones to help police find and charge people who are illegally dumping their trash in public places. Illegal trash dumping – called fly-tipping in England – has become a major health issue in recent times. Reports have found that fly tipping has risen 16% over the past year, generating 1.1 million official complaints, along with a growing rat population. 

The city of Sunderland, for example, reported over 2,500 cases of illegal junk and trash dumping just between August and October of this year. Offenders often select remote areas to dump their garbage, prompting city authorities to UAVs to assist them.The city is now training three pilots to fly drone missions against illegal dumping infractions. 

“A lot of the fly-tippers are very clever and go to hidden places, but our drones can go to those places as well,” Sunderland assistant director of community resilience, Sandra Mitchell said. “We will start to use drones which will be really important for getting to areas that staff can’t get to in terms of fly-tipping.”

Similar UAV programs have been launched in Rugby, Warwickshire, Wigan, and the Greater Manchester area. Other cities have found the cost of the drones, along with pilot training, to be prohibitive. The city of Rugby estimated the initial cost would be £9,800 (~$12,950 US) to cover the cost of the machine, training for two people and the various licences required by the Civil Aviation Authority. The council went ahead with the purchase, noting that uses for the drone would include the survey of sites for development, monitoring dangerous buildings, roof surveys of council properties, protecting sites from unauthorised encampments, as well as monitoring fly-tipping. With cases of fly-tripping surged by over 500% in some areas, the cost of clean-up may exceed the cost of the potential solution.