The drones are equipped with specialised cameras to measure air quality , Source: City of Sofia

Sofia launches drones against air pollution

Sofia launches drones against air pollution

The flying machines will help pinpoint polluted districts much more accurately

Last week, authorities in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia announced a new pilot project to monitor air quality with drones. The drones will fly over specific areas, pinpointing places with excess pollution, especially such caused by fine dust particles.

This would, in turn, help local authorities tailor projects to those areas. These could include, for example, traffic calming, green walls and the like. The city has partnered with Sofia University to do the project's flying, ecological monitoring and analysis.

Taking to the air

The drones will start by examining nine locations in the city, which have been identified as having more pollution and slowly move on to others. The machines themselves are equipped with sensors for registering basic air quality indicators, combined with precise photogrammetric and thermal cameras.  

Additionally, according to Steliyan Dimitrov, assistant professor at Sofia University, this would help analyse smaller areas and really pinpoint pollution. Moreover, it can give researchers clues on how the city’s geography and urban landscape interact with the atmosphere in the winter season.

Specific geography

Sofia has a unique geography in terms of air pollution. For one, it is situated in a valley with no easy way for air to escape, trapping pollutants near the city. Additionally, the valley is used for agriculture, which further increases the concentration of fine dust particles in the air.

These and other factors have contributed to making the Bulgarian capital one of the most polluted among its European peers and even provoked a successful lawsuit from a citizen-led organisation for damages due to low air quality.

One example of the new ideas City Hall is trying out to improve the air quality includes planting a new forest of up to 33 acres (86,000 trees) right on the edge of the urbanised areas. Another measure includes a municipal programme to change out people’s coal and wood heating stoves and fireplaces for more emissions-light pellet options.



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