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FLying ultrA-broadband single-shot Infra-Red sensor (FLAIR)

Air pollution from emitted by anthropogenic or/and natural sources constitutes a significant risk factor for a number of severe health conditions such as lung cancer and strokes. According to the 2014 WHO report, air pollution in 2012 caused the deaths of 7 million people worldwide. In Europe, air pollution is estimated to cause more than 300’000 premature deaths each year. The total annual economic cost of air pollution related health impacts is estimated to be in excess of US$ 1.5 trillion.

Today,   significant   effort   is   devoted globally to improve air quality through e.g. land-use planning strategies, replacement of fossil fuels by clean energy sources and lower level of industrial emission. In order to be successful, these measures need be accompanied by air quality monitoring at large scale to ensure compliance with air quality legislation but also to provide information for political decision making regarding air quality and safety. This is particularly challenging outside the dense urban network of air quality monitoring stations. With the sensor being mounted on a remotely controlled medium size UAV (operational range 80 km, max. ceiling altitude 4000 m), FLAIR provides large scale, pervasive air-quality monitoring data. Monitoring targets include industrial infrastructure, maritime and land based traffic, landfills and agriculture. Importantly, due to its high sensitivity and selectivity, the FLAIR sensor will not only provide information about a single molecular species or contamination but is capable of identifying a priori unexpected substances. With its additional sub-micron fine particle detection capability (enabled via a hybrid-approach), FLAIR aims at generating a complete picture of air quality.


Concept of the FLAIR project: A high-performance air sampling sensor based on cutting-edge photonic technology is mounted on an UAV (drone) for pervasive and large area coverage high-specificity and high-sensitivity (ppbv) air quality sensing. Operating in the two atmospheric windows of 2-5 μm and 8-12 μm wavelength, FLAIR can detected minute traces of molecules in complex gas mixtures from their characteristic IR absorption fingerprints and provide real time information to the operator. FLAIR can operate in remote or dangerous areas and outside of established monitoring networks. FLAIR contributes to a safer environment by providing detailed air quality data e.g. around industrial infrastructure, highways and ships or in case of catastrophic events like wildfires, volcanic eruption or chemical accidents. The UAV represented in this figure is a modified version of the AR3 NET RAY model4 (from the consortium partner TEKEVER) which is will be used in FLAIR.

Importantly, the UAV can rapidly access areas that are too dangerous or too difficult to reach by humans. Moreover, due to the local sampling FLAIR can provide data from inside optically dense clouds and plumes that are not accessible for ground based laser remote sensing methods such as light detection and ranging (LIDAR) or differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS). The UAV based approach of FLAIR constitutes a cost- effective (particularly when compared to the usually used manned research aircrafts) means of rapid, large-scale air-quality sampling with high mobility. Hence, FLAIR also lends itself to complex task such as solving the inversion problem for locating unknown pollution sources (e.g. leakage) from remote plume sensing. Overall, FLAIR aims at providing crucial data to emergency response forces and help coordinating counter measures in case of catastrophic events.

FLAIR Consortium

The innovative nature of the approach proposed in FLAIR comes from the novel design of an advanced optical spectroscopy device based on the integration of sub-systems establishing a new state-of-the-art in their respective fields. The challenges related to the development of such an integrated device will be answered by bringing together a strong and interdisciplinary consortium.

The FLAIR consortium involves partners from 6 European countries (Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) fulfilling the minimum requirement of involving three different countries in an H2020 collaborative project.