China to use drones to counteract high level of air pollution

The “Yi Long” drone(image credit

By NewsGram Staff Writer

In an attempt to fight the increasing pollution levels, China has started using drones for spying different industrial belts.

The drones have been recently used in Beijing, Shanxi and Hebei provinces to inspect for pollution.

“These are some of the worst affected areas of China, with a high number of coal-fired power stations, steel mills and cement plants”, said  Zhai Qing, the deputy minister of environmental protection.

According to the state-run China Daily newspaper, the drones have helped the ministry resolve over 200 environment linked cases and the ministry is considering more drone inspections in other areas.

“The drones were first introduced in 2012 for spying different industries. Now the ministry has four drones”, said Yang Yipeng, a ministry official.

“You can easily tell from the colour of the smoke – black, purple and brown – that the pollution is over the limit, because if smokestack scrubbers are operating properly, only white smoke is emitted”, Yang said in an interview with Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

“There were too many chimneys like these, and the drones also captured pictures of flames in the open air and that is still only the tip of the iceberg.” he added.

“It was very difficult for the law enforcers to collect evidence of violations when they make inspection trips outside Beijing, because locals easily recognise them and polluting factories swiftly suspend production, leaving few traces,” said Yang.

“The drones, on the contrary, can catch them off guard as few people notice their existence”, he further said.

Greenpeace activist Li Shuo, however, feels that the government should focus on its policy and legal reforms better than spying.

“More monitoring and inspections are no doubt the direction to go. In fact, online emission monitoring systems have already been put in place for key enterprises in many provinces in China. Some data have also been gradually disclosed to the public.

The key here is to ensure these systems actually function and to expand the coverage to other places,” said Li Shuo.

“When the country has put all its effort to win premier Li Keqiang’s recently declared war against pollution, I would rather like to see one that involves less ‘wartime machineries’ but employs more systematic policy and legal reforms,” he added.

The environment ministry has also been thinking of using drones for spraying chemicals to counter the high level of air pollution. According to the plan, the drones will run for 100 hours everyday and it will spray chemicals to remove the smog from the air.

In the past, the drones were mainly used to gather evidence about environmental breaches.