Modelling of air pollution around busy urban areas such as airports is a complex task. Ground stations for monitoring air quality and compliance reporting are usually limited in number, because of cost, to a few strategic locations. More recently given the advances in sensors, electronics and communication technologies it is now possible to design and build networked sensor nodes at a fraction of the cost of traditional systems. These breakthroughs in technology make it possible to implement large-scale sensor networks in city environments. A team led by Professor Rod Jones at the University of Cambridge, funded by NERC, is now doing just that for Heathrow Airport to better understand and develop sophisticated computer models for air quality in the vicinity of this busy international airport. Supporting the University of Cambridge are experts in sensors, electronics and computing at Imperial College, the Universities of Hertfordshire and Manchester, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultant and the National Physical Laboratory. An important collaborator in the project is the sensor manufacturer Alphasense Ltd.
The sensor nodes currently being installed around Heathrow include a wide array of sensors for measuring gases such as NO, NO2, CO, CO2, SO2, O3, VOCs and particle sizes of emissions. Sensor nodes in addition measure temperature, humidity and wind speed/direction and incorporate positioning (GPS) and communication electronics (GPRS). These networked sensor nodes are small enough form factor to enable them to be located easily on existing structures around the airport.
The network of nearly 50 sensor nodes will transmit environmental data in real-time via GPRS to a central database. Computer models will then combine on the ground sensor measurements with meteorological information as well as aircraft and road traffic data to predict air quality around the Heathrow Airport vicinity. A critical element of this proposal is the ability to detect the chemical signatures of individual aircraft movements.
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