Last week it was the nitrogen-spraying, PM2.5-freezing, chemicals-on-chemicals anti-smog drones. This week, a new step in unmanned pollution warfare comes in the form of a camera-touting stealth drone, which can be used by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to snoop on pollution-emitting factories.
These are pretty much your standard security drones; small enough to fly undetected, and decked-out with high-resolution cameras to capture pollution in action. Each plane costs around 8 million yuan and, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Yang Yiping, it is money well spent.
“It was difficult for the central government’s law enforcers to collect evidence of violations when they make inspection trips outside of Beijing, because locals easily recognise them and polluting factories swiftly suspend production, leaving few traces,” Yang told the South China Morning Post, “The drones, on the contrary, can catch them off-guard as few people notice their existence.”
So far the ministry has just four drones, has run a total of 30 flights, and have been able to use images obtained by the vehicles in suits against oil refineries in Guangxi, mining companies in Hainan, and corrupt contractors in Wuhan and Guangzhou.
The drone program seems to be a cost-effective success, which is great because the Chinese government probably won’t find out that these devices could also be fantastic for, say, urban surveillance.
[Image via South China Morning Post]