Someone has finally found a use for London’s ubiquitous pigeon population that involves fitting their fat, feathery bodies with tiny air pollution-detecting backpacks.
The bird-brained scheme has seen the Air Pigeon Patrol, as they are known, tracking the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the capital’s air while flying around the city as part of a three-day experiment.
The project operators, Plume Labs (no, we are not making this up), are also planning to turn their attention to equipping Londoners with similar sensors, so they can track air pollution levels at street level too.
Aside from monitoring nitrogen dioxide levels, exposure to which reportedly contributes to thousands of premature deaths in London each year, the backpacks also (rather fittingly) feedback their results to Twitter so Londoners can see how high pollution levels are in their area.
The pigeons aren’t your common or garden London pigeons; they’re actually thoroughbred racing birds that are owned by a chap called Brian. As such, they tend to live around 4 times longer than their city-dwelling counterparts, presumably because they’re not breathing in the city’s noxious fumes.