On the hunt for illegal landfills and land polluters through drone technologies

Drone-Tech activities kicked off as a result of a collaboration between Dta, the University of Bari and Israeli technology companies Highlander and Sightec

The project aims to increasingly explore how drones and related data processing technologies can provide value to Bari’s smart city

It was conceived as part of the Drone Living Lab network activated by Dta and the Municipality of Bari.

The kick-off meeting of the Drone-Tech project, a collaboration between the Apulian Aerospace Cluster, the University of Bari and Israeli technology companies Highlander and Sightec, was held in the Bari area between July 17 and 19.The project is co-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Israeli Innovation Agency through the Israel-Italy “Joint Innovation Program” for cooperation in research and development in industry, science and technology.

The DRONE-TECH project develops a technological capability based on drones and AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies for the automatic detection of illegal landfills in the shortest possible time, with the aim of significantly reducing such illegal practices that cause environmental damage to the land and are difficult to detect and remove (and with high costs) if immediate action is not taken.

The project aims to increasingly explore how drones and related data processing technologies can provide value to the smart city of Bari and help solve its problems. It was conceived within the framework of the “Drone Living Lab “network activated by DTA and the Municipality of Bari.

The project was officially launched on July 17, 2023 in the presence and with the support of the Municipality of Bari, whose delegation was led by Deputy Mayor Eugenio Di Sciascio, together with local police commander Michele Palumbo.

The following activities were carried out during the three days of meetings:

The first day included a round table discussion during which the project was presented to the end user (the Municipality of Bari) to get feedback and align expectations (e.g., what value will the Municipality get, how do we expect the Municipality to support the project?).

The second day was devoted to finalizing the project work plan and allocating tasks among all stakeholders.

The third day was devoted to on-site activities for direct visual understanding of the problem at hand: what illegal dumps look like, where they usually form, and what kind of obstacles are expected for technological solution. This allowed for additional operational information and discussion of new collaborative tools to promote the project and achieve greater results.

  The activities that will be developed under the Drone-Tech project will also enable the local police to have greater control over the territory, to provide for immediate interventions to counter pollution activities, and to be able to identify the perpetrators of environmental havoc through the images obtained from the use of drones and the processing of the collected data.

Illegal landfills, in general and in Southern Italy in particular, are widespread and cause considerable collateral environmental damage: from pollution of public space to soil and water contamination and improper waste disposal and negligent dumping of toxic substances Among other consequences, the huge economic damage resulting from activities to prevent and combat the phenomenon through the commitment of means and men that are diverted from other activities, law enforcement and necessary remediation operations.

The next opportunity to take stock of the activities carried out under the project will be the third edition of Drones Beyond, a European-level event organized by Dta and the Municipality of Bari with the support of Eurocontrol, which will take place in the Fiera del Levante area on October 25 and 26, 2023.

Giuseppe Acierno, president of Dta, points out that “new technologies can make an extraordinary contribution to current and urgent sustainability issues involving cities and citizens. Our know-how, combined with that of our Israeli partners and the solid expertise of the University of Bari, will give the city a way to field its own drone-based monitoring service that is flexible and can be used not only for landfills and waste.”

The deputy mayor in charge of Digital Transformation and Civic Services of the Municipality of Bari, Eugenio Di Sciascio, stresses that “this project has great relevance, both because of the opportunity to combat the phenomenon of illegal dumping more effectively and because it allows us to experiment with new technologies at the service of the city. Bari is increasingly characterized as a “Learning city,” a city open to experimenting and learning new techniques at the service of its citizens. This was precisely the intuition of the Drone Living Lab with Dta. I thank the project partners and the Local Police, whose willingness and attention to innovation are key elements for the success of the project.”