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Authorised officers have new recruits in their ranks with the launch of EPA’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program. Commonly known as drones, the UAVs are an important addition to EPA’s enforcement toolkit – providing our officers on the ground with visibility in difficult-to-reach areas.
How will EPA’s UAVs be used?
EPA’s UAV program supports the work of our Illegal Dumping Strikeforce program. Funded by the Victorian Government, the Strikeforce program is focused on identifying and investigating large-scale dumping sites across Victoria, and prosecuting offenders.
Each year, it’s estimated more than 350,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste, such as concrete, timber and asbestos, is illegally dumped throughout the state. The use of UAVs boosts EPA’s ability to not only detect illegal dumping as it happens, but also safely and efficiently gather evidence.
In 2015–16, EPA issued 98 remedial notices to stop or clean up illegally dumped waste across the state, with the most issued in Victoria’s north-west, followed by the Melbourne metro and north-east regions.
EPA’s UAVs can be fitted with a range of attachments to help officers calculate the volume of waste tyres on a site, detect ‘hotspots’ in landfills with the use of thermal imaging, and undertake air and water sampling.
Our UAVs are licensed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) specifically for business purposes. Our pilot is also certified by CASA.
Are there issues around privacy?
EPA must abide by CASA regulations. These regulations include a number of restrictions on the flight of UAVs, including:
- a prohibition on flying closer than 15 metres to people
- a prohibition on flying over a ‘populous area’
- a prohibition on operating within 5.5 kilometres of an aerodrome or helicopter landing site without prior approval
- a prohibition on flying above 400 feet
- operating UAVs only in daylight, good weather and ‘visual line of sight’.
EPA’s UAVs will not capture footage of anything that is not relevant to its investigations or inspections.