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China to use drones to counteract high level of air pollution

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The “Yi Long” drone(image credit rt.com)

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.

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Restricting AI Research with China Harmful: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

If those tariffs are implemented, virtually all Chinese imports would be subject to punitive taxes

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China is a leading force in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and blocking AI research with the country will do more harm than good for humanity, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said.

In an interview with the BBC, Nadella said that despite national security concerns, backing out of China would “hurt more” than it solved.

“A lot of AI research happens in the open and the world benefits from knowledge being open,” he said.

Quoting Microsoft President Brad Smith, Nadella said: “We know any technology can be a tool or a weapon. The question is, how do you ensure that these weapons don’t get created? I think there are multiple mechanisms.”

Microsoft Research Asia, the company’s fundamental research arm in the Asia Pacific region, was founded in Beijing in November 1998.

The media reported in April alleged that Microsoft has been collaborating with researchers linked to a Chinese military-backed university on AI. The research covered several AI topics, such as face analysis and machine reading.

Microsoft defended the research, saying that it was part of a worldwide effort by its scientists “to work with their international counterparts on cutting-edge technology issues”, reported the Financial Times.

Microsoft
Microsoft doesn’t use customers’ data for profit: Satya Nadella. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Nadella, they have control on who gets to use their technology.

“And we do have principles. Beyond how we build it, how people use it is something that we control through Terms of Use. And we are constantly evolving the terms of use,” he added.

The International Monetary Fund has said that the trade war between the US and China was triggering a global economic slowdown.

On September 1, the US followed through on plans to impose a 15 per cent tariff on certain Chinese consumer-goods imports including apparel, electronics, footwear and dairy products, that were valued at around $112 billion in 2018.

Those tariffs were in addition to 25 per cent tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports that began to be imposed on July 2018.

Also Read: iPhone 11 Pro: Seamless Productivity with Creativity (Tech Review)

US President Donald Trump’s administration said that it would wait until December 15 to impose tariffs, now set at 15 per cent, on certain mass-consumption products imported from China, including smartphones, laptops, video games and toys.

If those tariffs are implemented, virtually all Chinese imports would be subject to punitive taxes. (IANS)