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A London Tech Company Used Pigeons to Raise Awareness for Air Pollution Crisis

The birds were equipped pollution sensors and GPS trackers in mini backpacks.

| 2 min read

The birds were equipped pollution sensors and GPS trackers in mini backpacks.

A British technology company called Plume Labs is using pigeons — birds many people consider vermin — strapped with miniature backpacks containing pollution sensors and GPS trackers to help tackle the major air pollution crisis in London.

The “Pigeon Air Patrol” was released from March 15 to March 17 over the skies above London to monitor the levels of volatile compounds such as nitrogen dioxide produced by diesel vehicles in the city. Users were able to view a live map of the birds over the city, and visit the “Pigeon Air Patrol” Website to track the air pollution in their own neighborhoods. The birds also tweeted readings to social media users, all to help raise awareness.

SEE ALSO: Canadian Startup is Selling Bottles of Clean Air to China

Gary Fuller, an air quality expert at King’s College London, told the The Guardian, “It’s great that unemployed pigeons from Trafalgar Square are being put to work. Around 15 years ago tests were done on around 150 stray dogs in Mexico City, showing the ways in which air pollution was affecting lungs and heart health. But this is the first time that I’ve heard of urban wild animals being used to carry sensors to give us a picture of the air pollution over our heads.”

According to Plume Labs, 10,000 people die from air pollution in London every year. The 3-day “Pigeon Air Patrol” campaign was conducted to give Londoners insight into how bad the air pollution really is. The campaign also encouraged Londoners to become Beta Testers for a wearable version of Plume Lab’s air pollution device—the tech company is currently looking for 100 volunteers who run or cycle in the city.


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