Here is an article published in the Journal Le Soleil in March 2018, about the use of drones for environmental sampling. For several years we have improved technologies to enable businesses and organizations to collect air samples in different situations. Here is the opinion of journalist Jean-François Cliche - Le Soleil.
If someone needed to climb up an industrial stack to take a sample of hot and potentially toxic gases that come out, it’s a good bet that volunteers would not be lined up at the door. But thanks to a drone developed in Québec City, there may be no need for volunteers to go into dangerous or difficult places to access.
"Just in terms of health and safety, there are plenty of places where you can’t send an operator to sample," said Nicolas Turgeon, engineer and researcher at the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec. "I am thinking of spills, forest fires or accidents. There’s a need just for that. [...] In 2015, we were already wondering if an airborne sampling system existed, then we did a little research and we discovered that there wasn’t much on the market. What existed was mostly academic or research equipment."
The CRIQ therefore partnered with Québec City-based DroneXperts to develop a drone that would be able to do the work - and a prototype will be unveiled at the Salon des technologies environnementales du Québecwhich takes place Tuesday and Wednesday at the Québec City Conference Center. This unmanned aerial vehicle over a meter of diameter is powered by six propellers and carries three different sampling devices. It was tested inside a chamber of the Québec City incinerator, which is inaccessible to staff, and around its stack.
The challenge of miniaturization
"Basically, these are the same sampling technologies that we use on the ground. There was a miniaturization challenge [which has been overcome, ndlr) and there’s also the challenge of having reference methods to compare the results with what is done on the ground," said Turgeon.
Added to this are tests needed to establish the equipment’s limits - what it can do and what it can’t do. For example, said the researcher, the air turbulence caused by the propellers isn’t harmful when the drone is in the middle of a cloud of a few tens of meters in diameter. "But when you want to characterize the periphery of a cloud, that can be difficult," he noted.
Note that the Centre d’expertise en analyse environnementale du Québec, part of the Ministère de l’Environnement, was very interested in the project and actively participated.