Part of the show Your Questions, Infectious Cancer and Louisiana Wetlands
Scientists will soon be offering us a bird's eye view of pollution when they release a flock of 20 pigeons each equipped with a smog-monitoring backpack and a mobile phone! The birds will take to the skies over San Jose, California, in August this year and beam back text messages detailing the pollution they run into as they flutter about. The data they collect will be plotted in real time on an interactive map in an Internet "blog site", and cameras carried around their necks mean that the birds will also be sending back aerial photographs of their travels. The project is the brain child of researcher Beatriz da Costa from the University of California, Irvine, and her two students Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto. The team have so far built a prototype system comprising a cellphone circuit board and SIM card, a GPS receiver to pinpoint each of the bird's positions, and nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide sensors to monitor pollution. The next step is to shrink all of the components onto a single circuit-board to make a pigeon-pollution-pack for the birds to carry on their travels.