AI News, Drones Take to the Skies to Screen for Methane Emissions

Drones Take to the Skies to Screen for Methane Emissions

When you think of greenhouse gas emissions, you might be thinking of carbon dioxide—but methane isanother significant contributorto warming that’s on the rise.

Sources include large grassfires, leaking natural gas wells, natural wetland processes, belching cows, or even fartingtermites.

Existing methane ground monitoring stations in Africa can’t discern region-wide effects, because they can’t tell how methane would end up mixing in the atmosphere.

Scientists have tried several technologies to go above the trade wind inversion.Satellitesare not accurate enough to identify the sources of methane, balloons are too time-consuming, towers are too short, and airplane flights are too expensive, the researchers say.

Besides being atmospherically ideal for methane measurements, another advantage to Ascension was that its remoteness made it much easier to get clearance from authorities to fly at high altitudes than in a densely populated or high-air-traffic area, says Thomas.

The drone only flew when there were no other flights that could interfere;the island’s government helped coordinate emergency services and logistics (such as closing a road), and the team always communicated with air traffic control.

Different methane sources emit methanecontaining different carbon isotopes, so the researchers expected that during Africa’s peak biomass-burning season, the ratio of isotopes would indicate a clear signal of grass-fire burning.

He was not involved in the study, but writes in an email that it’s important to characterize the greenhouse gas sources in order to correctly target emission reductions.

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