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Brady Road Landfill a no-drone zone after all

There may not be drones circling the landfill, but there are still plenty of gulls.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

There may not be drones circling the landfill, but there are still plenty of gulls. Photo Store

IF the people in charge of Winnipeg's garbage had their way, an unmanned aerial vehicle would patrol the skies over the city's largest heap of trash.

The cost of launching Air Force Rubbish proved to be too high to commission a drone to fly over the Brady Road Landfill.

This summer, Winnipeg's water and waste department issued a search for a firm capable of supplying Brady Road with an "unmanned aerial system."

The drone the department desired would have been used to figure out how much garbage could be stored in a particular patch of landfill. It also would have helped managers determine when to build new sections of the sprawling facility, located south of the Perimeter Highway.

The drone would have been equipped with aerial-imaging software and a weather-resistant camera in order to conduct surveys, build maps and calculate volumes of landfill waste, city spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said in a statement.

"The data is used to measure how much (volume) we have used over a given time," she said. "The city would then add the tonnes received through the weigh-scale measurement and that is how density is calculated."

According to bid documents on the city's website, the proposed drone would have had a cruising speed of 60 kilometres an hour and would have flown between 50 and 1,500 metres above ground level, with a maximum payload of 2.5 kilograms.

It was also supposed to have four rotors and a fail-safe system that would have allowed it to land in the event of motor failure.

It also was required to detect and avoid obstacles during landing.

The contractor would have trained four people to operate the drone.

The city accepted bids for the work until August, but wound up rejecting the sole entry -- a $99,100 bid -- as too rich for water and waste's budget.

At that point, Winnipeg's short-lived foray into the field of unmanned aerial garbage surveillance was over. The project was cancelled on the spot.

"The prices exceeded the available budget," Melesko said. "A decision was made to redirect the resources to a more traditional method of measuring landfill density and air space."

In a municipal context, drones are more commonly used to assist policing. The RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Miami-Dade Police are among police services that use unmanned aerial vehicles.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2013 A3

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Updated on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM CDT: adds photo

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