Firefighters Use Drones for Summer Litter Cleanups at Downriver Creek

In a collaborative effort, the nonprofit Friends of the Detroit River and Downriver have employed to survey litter along Ecorse Creek, streamlining the process of identifying target areas for upcoming summer volunteer trash cleanups, reports The Detroit Free Press. This high-tech approach has significantly reduced the time required for the spring litter survey, enabling more efficient and precise mapping of debris sites.

Drone Survey Enhances Efficiency and Accuracy

Traditionally, the spring litter survey of Ecorse Creek was conducted on foot and by kayak, a process that took Friends of the Detroit River four to five days. However, with the introduction of drone technology, the survey was completed in just half a day. The drone's pilot view screen provided latitude and longitude coordinates, allowing Stewardship Director McKenzi Walisczek to accurately map the locations of various types of litter, such as construction debris, shopping carts, and old tires.

The drone, a $10,000 model owned by the Downriver Special Operations Fire Services, filmed more than four miles of Ecorse Creek, covering areas in Allen Park, Melvindale, Lincoln Park, and Ecorse. Fire Chief Dan Mercure highlighted the drone's potential to save lives and assist in firefighting efforts, while firefighter Eric Poet and fire captain Jerry Hollis operated the drone, adhering to FAA regulations.

Importance of Ecorse Creek and Stormwater Management

Although Ecorse Creek may seem insignificant compared to 's larger lakes and rivers, it plays a crucial role in draining dozens of square miles in key Downriver areas. The creek's untreated pollution and litter directly impact the Detroit River. Moreover, the creek often contributes to street and basement flooding during rainstorms.

Local, regional, and state leaders are increasingly focusing on managing stormwater to improve water quality and prevent neighborhood flooding. Groups like Friends of the Detroit River aim to restore the natural flow and beauty of metro-Detroit's waterways, making them accessible for recreational activities and enjoyment.

Volunteer Efforts and Future Initiatives

While the drone survey has provided valuable data, the actual removal of debris will require human hands. Volunteer cleanups are scheduled throughout the summer, with dedicated individuals like Bryon Frady, known as the “Rouge River man,” actively participating in litter removal efforts.

In addition to the Ecorse Creek cleanup, several other river, lake, and park cleanups are planned in metro Detroit this spring, tied to Earth Day on April 22. These events, organized by various organizations, provide opportunities for volunteers to contribute to the improvement of local waterways and green spaces.

The collaboration between Friends of the Detroit River and Downriver firefighters in utilizing drone technology for litter surveying demonstrates the potential for innovative approaches to address environmental challenges. By combining high-tech solutions with volunteer efforts, the community can work towards restoring and preserving the natural beauty and ecological health of metro-Detroit's waterways, ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable future for generations to come.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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