Innovation That Matters

Pigeons monitor air pollution in London


Pigeon Air Patrol uses tiny pigeon-mounted backpacks to crowdsource air quality, and users can tweet their closest bird to get the data.

Humans have been using pigeons to carry messages for more than a thousand years, but the ancient use of these birds has been given a modern twist for a new air pollution research project in London. Pigeon Air Patrol, a three-day project developed by Plume Labs, is fitting pigeons with tiny air-monitoring backpacks to gather data on the city’s air quality.

The ultra-light backpacks are worn by ten racing pigeons owned by a professional pigeon breeder. The backpacks turn the pigeons into mobile air-monitoring devices, with the birds measuring nitrogen dioxide and ozone, two harmful air pollutants common in cities.

Twitter users in the city can tweet their location to @PigeonAir and receive an instant response on the air quality from one of the flock. Plume Labs says the project aims to raise awareness of the scale of London’s air pollution, while also generating a report on air quality.

pigeon patrol

The Paris-based company hopes the campaign will encourage more people to sign up to the Plume Air App, which currently covers 200 cities worldwide. The app crowdsources air pollution, much like this European project, which collects air quality data via the smartphones of participants in 11 cities. Plume Labs are also hosting a crowdfunding campaign to try and expand their air map technology.

Air quality has become a big political and environmental talking point in cities like London. Now that there is Plumes Lab’s internet-of-pigeons, what else can help in gathering data on air pollution?



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