Unmanned Robot Drone Spying on California Smog

Not the actual plane, but similar. Image from Jasmic

We all know that smog is a problem in Southern California. Los Angeles is one of the worst places on earth for it. However, the problems posed by smog and the myriad of other bits of junk that we propel into the atmosphere aren’t diagnosed if we don’t know exactly what the toxins are and where they’re coming from. That’s where the Scripps Institute and their robot drones come in.

The robot aircraft, which are not operated or controlled from the time they take off until the time they land–take careful measurements of things like light intensity, temperature, and humidity.

When such a comprehensive survey was attempted in the past, the same Scripps team investigated the “atmospheric brown cloud” over Southeast Asia. They were able to create a highly accurate model of the way in which the pollution altered weather patterns in the region.

The California team hopes to do that, but also to ascertain the origin of the pollutants: what has drifted North from Mexico or East from Asia, and which particles in the air are dust, and which particles are diesel fuel. To analyze this, the aircraft will be flying exclusively in military airspace – the only place that these drones can fly. The FAA has barred them from public airspace, as a class, because, well, they’re drones.

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