It’s a calm April morning and Don Gray of Gordon Environmental/PSC stands near the new 14.3 acre asbestos “cell” being developed at Corralitos Regional Landfill located fifteen miles west of Las Cruces. Gray holds the latest, greatest landfill technology: a lightweight drone fitted with a high quality camera and it’s controller.

On his phone – outfitted with an app to control and follow the drone – Gray sees what the drone sees from high in the sky: a grid overlaying the image of the new landfill cell.

“Every tiny black dot on the phone image is a location where the drone has taken a picture, ” explains Gray. “The drone will fly no higher than 400 feet as dictated by the FAA, ensuring we do not interfere with air traffic (planes). It will take approximately 8.5 minutes to fly this space and create 67 photos. When the photos are processed, the output will provide a highly-detailed photo and elevations allowing us to give the SCSWA volumetrics of the new landfill cell.”

When everything is ready, Gray touches a button and the bright white drone launches straight up with a whirring sound. On this day the sky is bright blue and it’s relatively easy to watch the drone as it zings back and forth, flying the grid as programmed.

Corralitos Regional Landfill, operated by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), is where all the solid waste from the city and county ends up. It’s critical that the SCSWA has detailed information about the amount of air space remaining in existing landfill cells in order to plan future development.

The resulting aerial photo provides a reliable, comprehensive look at Corralitos Regional Landfill, new development of cells on site, and becomes a permanent part of the records of the SCSWA.

Green Connections is submitted by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), managing solid waste, recyclables, and fighting illegal dumping for residents and businesses in the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. You can reach the SCSWA at (575) 528-3800 or visit