Have Drone Inspections worked to reduce Industrial Pollution?

20 September 2018

Lab Chat

The Dubai Municipality is cracking down on environmental infringements from industrial polluters via the use of drones. Although the scheme was only announced last month, it has been in operation for the whole of 2018 and has already shown remarkable results in not only detecting transgressions but reducing their incidence.

To date, the number of overall environmental violations has fallen by a staggering 47% in the first six of months of this year, compared to the same period in 2017. Drone inspections, coupled with advancements in pollution monitoring technology, are the main drivers behind the change and those behind the scheme are pointing to its success as evidence of the achievability of their long-term environmental aims.

Growing industry awareness

The technological innovations are key to catching companies who do not meet their environmental obligations, with drones a particularly strong tool in the fight against unlawful pollution. As well as cracking down on bad farming methods in other parts of the world, these remote-controlled flying machines are being used in the Emirates to monitor all industrial operations across the nation.

While this new surge of surveillance initially led to an increase in infringements, growing awareness from industrial actors means that those figures are now declining. The amount of violations caused by a failure to obtain the requisite environmental permit fell by 55% between January and June of 2018 compared to last year. Meanwhile, the number of air pollution breaches fell by 24%.

According to the Dubai Environment Department Director Aliah Al Harmoudi, these numbers can be directly attributed to growing industry awareness. All industrial plants in the municipality, including cement manufacturing installations and the suchlike, have pledged to install pollution monitoring and control units to comply with regulations.

A plan for the future

Al Harmoudi highlighted the role of drones as just one facet of a long-term plan to tackle pollution in the emirate. Dubai first began introducing environmental permits for industrial applications which had not previously required them in 2016.

Thanks to the deployment of drones and the exhaustive inspections that this technology facilitates, the Environment Department was able to determine that a significant number of industrial locations were pursuing their operations without having acquired the requisite permit. This allowed the Department to issue fines and penalties, which in turn raised awareness about the capacity of the Department’s ability to monitor polluting infringements.

“We have expanded the scope of the use of drones to include all industrial areas in the emirate, in addition to the development projects, to monitor and control any pollution emanating from industrial activities and projects in order to enhance the environment protection opportunities in the emirate,” explained Al Harmoudi. Although it is still early days for the deployment of drones, the results are highly encouraging thus far.

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