Monday October 22, 2018
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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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Shanghai Airport Gets Check-In With Facial Recognition Machines

Increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

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Shanghai,
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection facial recognition device is ready to scan another passenger at a United Airlines gate. VOA

It’s now possible to check in automatically at Shanghai Hongqiao airport using facial recognition technology, part of an ambitious rollout of facial recognition systems in China that has raised privacy concerns as Beijing pushes to become a global leader in the field.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport unveiled self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance and boarding powered by facial recognition technology, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Similar efforts are under way at airports in Beijing and Nanyang city, in central China’s Henan province.

Shanghai,
Face recognition tool was first launched in 2012

Many airports in China already use facial recognition to help speed security checks, but Shanghai’s system, which debuted Monday, is being billed as the first to be fully automated.

“It is the first time in China to achieve self-service for the whole check-in process,” said Zhang Zheng, general manager of the ground services department for Spring Airlines, the first airline to adopt the system at Hongqiao airport. Currently, only Chinese identity card holders can use the technology.

Spring Airlines, Shanghai said Tuesday that passengers had embraced automated check-in, with 87 percent of 5,017 people who took Spring flights on Monday using the self-service kiosks, which can cut down check-in times to less than a minute and a half.

Shanghai,
Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of the Boston-based artificial intelligence firm Affectiva, demonstrates the company’s facial recognition technology, in Boston, April 23, 2018. VOA

Across greater China, facial recognition is finding its way into daily life. Mainland police have used facial recognition systems to identify people of interest in crowds and nab jaywalkers, and are working to develop an integrated national system of surveillance camera data.

Chinese media are filled with reports of ever-expanding applications: A KFC outlet in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, where it’s possible to pay using facial recognition technology; a school that uses facial recognition cameras to monitor students’ reactions in class; and hundreds of ATMs in Macau equipped with facial recognition devices to curb money laundering.

Also Read: Facial Recognition Technology Catches A Person With Fake Passpost At The US Airport 

But increased convenience may come at a cost in a country with few rules on how the government can use biometric data.

“Authorities are using biometric and artificial intelligence to record and track people for social control purposes,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We are concerned about the increasing integration and use of facial recognition technologies throughout the country because it provides more and more data points for the authorities to track people.” (VOA)