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Using Drones To Stop The Mafia’s Illegal Dumping

The Italian government is employing the StillFly, an environmental-sensing remote-controlled aircraft, in trying to curb one of the Neapolitan mafia’s most insidious crimes: rampant pollution.

Using Drones To Stop The Mafia’s Illegal Dumping
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You don’t need to dig deep in the Italian countryside surrounding Naples to find trash, tons of it is illegally dumped everywhere, by businessmen looking to avoid costs or by the local Camorra mafia.

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But now Public Radio International’s The World reports that the Italian government has taken to the air–in tiny, instrument laden aircraft–to stop the practice and convict those poisoning the land, sea, and air in the area.

StillFly, a tiny hovering drone designed by Massimiliano Lega, an environmental engineer at the University of Naples Parthenope, is designed to work like a flying laboratory. It cruises a few feet about the ground scouring illegal dumping sites. StillFly’s heat camera and chemical sensors quickly reveal toxic fumes released by decomposing and smoldering trash

“It’s like forensic police on the scene of a murder but readapted for environmental crime,” says Lega in the interview.

It’s being tested in riverbeds, farmlands, and industrial sites across Italy, and has already led to the conviction of a few polluters: a farmer and a mozzarella maker who were dumping agricultural waste, and it spotted a ship rinsing its tanks in the Gulf of Naples.

Now that’s it’s starting to go after bigger targets, StillFly may need some protection of its own.

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About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment. His favorite topics are wicked problems -- and discoveries such as how dung beetles rely on the light of the Milky Way to navigate (and all that says about the human condition on Earth)

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