Backpack-Wearing Pigeons Are Being Used To Monitor Pollution In London


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

429 Backpack-Wearing Pigeons Are Being Used To Monitor Pollution In London
These backpacks contain all the scientific necessaries. Pigeon Air Patrol/Plume Labs via Twitter

Air pollution’s a killer: In China alone, 1.6 million people a year die from this increasingly problematic phenomenon. In the U.K., a recent report has suggested that up to 40,000 citizens will perish each year, primarily due to the uncontrolled rise in nitrous dioxide vehicle emissions. London isn’t faring well either – its yearly pollution limit was broken this year just eight days in.




With all this in mind, a technology company has unleashed its latest weapon in the fightback against air pollution. As reported by BBC News, Plume Labs have fitted 10 common pigeons with tiny lightweight backpacks, all of which can detect nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and other hazardous, volatile compounds in the air.

This pigeon air patrol can be tracked using a live map. Although the birds themselves aren’t trained scientists, their backpacks will be able to do all the work for them – they simply have to fly around and act as they normally do. These particular birds were originally trained as racing pigeons, and they’ll be looked after by a professional veterinarian to make sure their health remains tip-top.



This pigeon squadron is clearly quite savvy with social media; you can tweet your area of London to @PigeonAir and they’ll tell you how toxic it is, ranging from “fresh” to “extreme.”

This initiative was the winning entry in the “Solve a Problem” category of Twitter’s #PoweredbyTweets competition. This project was then showcased at the London Design Festival before going live. In the long-term, Plume Labs hopes to encourage Londoners themselves to become beta testers for a wearable version of their pigeon-based pollution-detecting backpacks.


  • tag
  • air pollution,

  • pigeons,

  • London,

  • air patrol,

  • backpacks,

  • Plume Labs