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EarthSense Scientists Help Pupils Map Air Pollution for BBC News

Updated: Jul 1, 2019

Scientists from EarthSense are featured in a week-long schedule of reports on air pollution shown on the BBC One News at Six programme, during the week beginning 06 March.

In the first in the series, David Shukman explores the potential issue of air pollution and school children. He explained how students at a secondary school in North West Leicestershire used a new air quality sensor to measure pollution levels along a busy street in Leicester.


As part of a science project, the students had previously recorded NO2 levels at different times of the day, in different locations around the school and wider area on different days of the week. The geographically referenced information was then automatically transmitted to the EarthSense laboratory for analysis.


The equipment used in the project was the newly launched Zephyr® sensor developed by EarthSense. Compact, lightweight and affordable, the Zephyr® – meaning light wind – accurately measures pollutants Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Ozone (O3). The sensor comes with a twelve-month calibration, is easy to operate and can be used in static mode or as a mobile sensor with locations recorded by GPS.


14 year-old Logan Eddy, a Year 9 student, described how they went about capturing pollution recordings, “We adapted a backpack by adding a vent in the bottom to allow the Zephyr® to suck in the air to sample it. We then attached the GPS to the top of the bag using a magnet to allow it to track our location.”


The Zephyr® measurements were transmitted to the EarthSense laboratory using the mobile phone network, where they were analysed by scientists, including Prof. Roland Leigh. “We can incorporate data from sensors, such as the Zephyr® or airborne Air Quality Mapper, automatically and in real time into our web-based mapping portal."


“Modelling, using software such as FluidAir, can help identify potential sources of emissions, in this case the school buses, and patterns in pollution dispersion. This data and derived intelligence is critical if we are to address this growing environmental threat.”


Logan concluded, “As we thought, the pollution levels were at their highest during the afternoons when the buses arrive early and sit with their engines running. Simply turning off the engines would probably have a dramatic effect.”


EarthSense is a joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester.

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