China uses drones to police its biggest polluters

Forget the far-flung ideas to disperse smog, China is using aerial detective work to monitor the factories and power plants emitting the pollution.
Written by Kirsten Korosec, Contributor

China's pollution has sparked untold numbers of innovative--and sometimes far-fetched--plans to improve air quality from smog-sucking vacuums and air-cleaning bikes to the development of a thorium nuclear reactor and more conventional ideas like government subsidies.

The Chinese government committed $277 billion, over five years, to fight this problem and earlier this year spent $798 million of that money to buy New Zealand's largest waste management company in order to acquire technology to aid in the fight.

Now, the government is trying some aerial gumshoeing to ferret out factories and power plants that are exceeding pollution limits.

China has mobilized drones to gather air pollution data in northern areas of the country to investigate how well environmental laws are enforced, according to a statement from the Ministry of Environmental Protection that was reported by China Radio International. The drones are equipped with infrared cameras that can locate pollution emissions at night.

"Images sent from these drones have a 0.04-meter resolution. In other words, we can recognize a matchbox from 1,000 meters above," the statement said.

Eleven small- and medium-sized drones were used to collect the air pollution data between June 16 and June 27 in the provinces of Hebei and Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region--three areas with some of the worst air quality due to industrial pollution, mining and sandstorms, according to the statement. The airborne investigation follows a similar campaign, held from November 2013 to February 2014 in Hebei, to inspect pollution sources.

Environmental departments will check the data gathered by the drones and investigate further before issuing violations to polluters, according to the statement.

Thumbnail photo: UN-CECAR


This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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