Pigeon pollution air patrol could wing its way to Edinburgh

The racing pigeons are in operation in London over three days, but plans to bring them to Edinburgh are also afoot. Picture: Plume Labs
The racing pigeons are in operation in London over three days, but plans to bring them to Edinburgh are also afoot. Picture: Plume Labs
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The first-ever flock of pollution-monitoring pigeons have been launched in London with a possible Scottish debut for the winged eco-warriors in the pipeline.

The initiative, created by Plume Labs in conjunction with DigitasLBi and Twitter, aims to raise general awareness of air pollution.

No less than ten pigeons wearing small pollution-monitoring backpacks have been released in the capital, with the lightweight pollution sensors measuring levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone - the main gases in harmful urban air pollution.

The Pigeon Air Patrol will monitor air quality in the UK capital and report back via Twitter. Londoners can tweet their location to the handle @PigeonAir to receive an instant response from one of the pigeons (named Coco, Julius and Norbert), telling them about the level of pollution in their area.

But while the service is only present in London at the moment, plans are afoot to bring it north of the border.

Stuart Aitken of Digitas LBi said: “We are exploring ways in which this technology could be rolled out in Scottish cities like Edinburgh”

Users of the Plume Labs service have the chance to join the beta-testing scheme for user-mounted pollution monitoring devices. Picture: Plume Labs

Users of the Plume Labs service have the chance to join the beta-testing scheme for user-mounted pollution monitoring devices. Picture: Plume Labs

Service users visit the website to see a live map of the pigeons’ flights and sign up to become beta testers for a wearable version of the company’s air pollution measuring device.

The pigeons themselves are well cared-for racing pigeons, who even have their own vet to hand in case any problems arise.

READ MORE: Edinburgh’s St John’s Road is Scotland’s most polluted street

The CEO of Plume Labs, Romain Lacombe, added: “Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone.

Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps people understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way.

Helen Lawrence, Head of Creative Agency Development at Twitter, added: “Over the last 10 years Twitter has been used in ways that we would never have imagined - rivers that Tweet when the water level rises, sharks that Tweet when they’re swimming near shore and now pigeons that Tweet live pollution information.”

Today is the last of the Pigeon Air Patrol’s three-day tour monitoring the skies above London.

Once their shift is complete, the birds will return to their everyday duties as racing pigeons.

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