Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2024


Modern landfills follow a strict state and federal regulation on their location, design, operation and monitoring practices. One of the key focus in the regulations is in terms of leachate. While the exact composition of the leachates depends on various factors such as waste composition and degradation processes, in general they contain groups of dissolved organic matter, inorganic cations and heavy metals.

Very Low Frequency-Electromagnetic (VLF-EM) has been widely used for delineating leachate plume direction and boundaries. Previous studies using VLF-EM were carried out as on-ground measurements due to limitations in technologies. With the advancements in Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS), drones are now capable of conducting airborne VLF-EM surveys. In this study, we examine the applicability of utilizing drone-based VLF-EM in detecting groundwater contamination due to landfill leachate. Due to UAVs being a new method of deployment, there are various factors that must be accounted for such as the signal noise from drone RC controller to the pitch, roll, yaw of the towed VLF probe. The VLF-EM system was tested at a controlled test site for various factors such as flight altitude and frequencies to understand the sensitivity of the instrument and optimal flight parameters. Afterwards, airborne data was collected at a historic landfill along with an on-ground VLF-EM data to compare the data quality. Both of the data set were cross-referenced with groundwater sample data collected at monitoring wells surrounding the landfill. Utilization of drone-based airborne VLF-EM in future studies can drastically reduce time and cost in data collection while providing access to areas with difficult terrain for on-ground measurements.


Geological and Environmental Sciences


Mine Dogan, PhD, Faculty Advisor