DENR to use drones in monitoring industrial air pollution

Drones will soon fly over Metro Manila to monitor emission levels in industrial areas as part of a concerted effort to curb air pollution from stationary sources.

This developed as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently teamed up with the Clean Air Philippines Movement Inc. (CAPMI) for the deployment of drones capable of detecting air pollution under the newly launched program Clean Air Patrol.

The program supports DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu’s resolve to strictly implement environmental laws, particularly Republic Act No. 8749, or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

According to Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones, the program will enable the DENR — particularly its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)— to identify the factories, refineries and power plants that are polluting the environment.

“These equipment (drones) will help us ensure we do our mandated task of monitoring emissions and factories violating our environmental laws,” the DENR official pointed out.

Leones said the program will be piloted in Metro Manila and eventually replicated in other urban areas across the country.

“It will augment the efforts of the EMB to monitor the 20,000 industries nationwide,” he said.

The Clean Air Patrol will use unmanned aircrafts, popularly known as drones, to track down sources of pollution in identified pollution hotspots.

Each drone has mapping capabilities and night and thermal vision that can detect source of heat and temperature. It can also identify air pollutants based on how the data are taken.

The drone has a range of two to six kilometers from source. Initially, three drones will be operated by licensed pilots over Metro Manila on a weekly basis.

EMB Director Metodio Turbella said the DENR-CAPMI partnership complies with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

“We want to know the real ambient air quality in the National Capital Region so that the EMB can properly address air pollution concerns,” Turbella said.

He said the accord with CAPMI was only first of the many partnerships the DENR will undertake pursuant to Cimatu’s directive for the agency to be “collaborative, adoptive, and to use science- and research-based data” in resolving environmental issues.

“We are collaborating with the private sector, adopting the use of new technology and we will use the scientific data from these drones to make decisions toward the attainment of clean air nationwide,” Turbella stressed.

“We will maintain utmost transparency in the conduct of our work to protect the environment,” he promised.

At the same time, Turbella said the use of drones and their operation will be at no cost to the DENR.

CAPMI president Michael Aragon, meanwhile, said the program will not focus on mobile sources like motor vehicles, but on stationary sources such as factories, as well as open burning and construction sites.

“There are other sources of air pollution. We want now to complete the whole picture and look at these other sources,” Aragon said.

Under the program, industries will be informed about the results of monitoring.

In case of adverse findings, the EMB will issue a reminder to the concerned industry, which will also be required to submit a compliance plan complete with timetable.

The EMB will then monitor the commitment of erring industries in their respective compliance plans. ###