French companies EONEF and ECOMESURE have joined forces to help monitor atmospheric pollutants better. Committed to environmentally-friendly projects, both firms are giving a new lift to air quality monitoring thanks to tethered balloons outfitted with microsensors

This innovation in monitoring the vertical distribution of airborne pollutants provides a clearer picture of dispersion processes, validates numerical models, and makes measuring across gradients. 

An innovative method for recording and combining hyperlocal data with data from regulatory monitoring networks

Most air quality monitors are stationary and located either at eye level or directly on a stack outlet. The combination of EONEF’s tethered balloon and ECOMESURE's portable microsensors provides an innovative way to obtain hyperlocal air quality data at specific points in time and specific 3D positions at a given altitude.

The tethered balloon is inflated with helium and attached to the ground by a cable. The entire airborne platform is passive, meaning that air flows around it naturally and without causing turbulence so that pollutant dispersion processes can be observed in real time. 

Measurements across gradients can be obtained by gathering data at various altitudes as the balloon ascends to as high as 120 m/394 ft. Measurements can now be taken threedimensionally in a smoke plume and at midway points between multiple industrial sources. Even measuring background pollution is now possible.  

Depending on wind and temperature variations, pollutants can be carried away from their source without being noticed or measured. The tethered balloon outfitted with microsensors can: 

  • Measure actual pollution levels 
  • Compare these levels with those obtained by conventional monitoring networks
  • Provide a better understanding of the dispersion of airborne pollutants and particles

Conducting airborne monitoring surveys improve air quality measurements as a whole because they provide three-dimensional representations of existing networks and expand the scope of environmental observations across entire urban environments or industrial sites. 

Airbone monitoring in urban areas

Road traffic is a major source of air pollution in urban areas, where regulatory limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particles (PM2.5, PM10) are often exceeded.  

Added to this are carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from residential wood or coal heating systems as well as incineration plants and agricultural operations. 

Observing these pollutants from high up in the air makes it possible to better understand emission sources and quickly identify actions that should be taken first to protect residents.  

Validates and refines numerical models for a given area

EONEF’s tethered balloon can be outfitted with sensing devices of any type, such as still-shot cameras or a video cameras. When used for pollution monitoring purposes, it is equipped with ECOEMSURE’s EcomTrek mobile monitor to add an environmental component to numerical models.  

For example, images coupled with temperature and ozone (O3) measurements taken during the summer can be used to quickly identify urban heat islands (UHIs) and the benefits of green roofs and ecodistricts.

Using airborne platforms to model urban land use offers three advantages: it improves understanding of how urban areas function and impact the environment; it aids policymakers in making informed decisions for shaping their cities’ futures; and it provides the evidence needed to convince local governments to place more focus on air quality management in land-use planning policies.

A public outreach tool

More often than not, the general public is completely unaware of the presence and purpose of scientific instruments and sensors used to measure air quality at industrial sites and in urban areas. This is because they are usually mounted atop poles or rooftops. 

In contrast, the pairing of EONEF’s tethered balloon with ECOMESURE’s microsensors brings air quality measurements back in the public eye, but in a way that is neither intrusive nor noisy. The balloon’s envelope can be customized with colors and messages to inform and engage. For example, it can be used by municipal governments to communicate to their constituents that they are committed to a policy of monitoring and tackling air pollution. 

Three-dimensional measurements at industrial sites

Air sampling at industrial sites 

The use of airborne platforms to measure atmospheric pollutants lends itself well to the monitoring of refineries, agrifood operations, sewage treatment plants and other facilities that emit VOCs, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). 

Monitoring changes in the concentrations of these airborne pollutants makes it possible to protect the health of the workers at these sites as well as nearby residents.  

EONEF’s balloon can be outfitted with EcomCapture, ECOMESURE’s connected air sampling system. EcomCapture intelligently adapts to in-field conditions by pulling air into a canister only when pollution limits are exceeded. The grab samples are then subjected to detailed laboratory analysis to confirm whether they contain certain pollutants, flag the presence of other volatile compounds, and determine pollution sources. 

Having data on the types of pollutants present at a given location is particularly useful for determining whether an incident is due to a specific pollution episode or background pollution in line with regulatory limits.

Integration of environmental data with supervisory control systems

Data collected during airborne monitoring surveys are accessible in real time on a dedicated web platform. They also can be integrated into supervisory control systems to allow Quality, Health and Environment (QHSE) to: 

  • Control sensors remotely
  • Conduct a comprehensive emissions inventory
  • Analyze risks quickly
  • Ensure compliance with regulations

Air pollution threshold alerts can be configured to inform QHSE staff when environmental conditions exceed regulatory limits and allow them to act quickly to reduce health risks.

Airborne measurements in emergency situations

The deployment of an airborne platform outfitted with air quality microsensors, cameras, and communication systems helps incident command leaders to quickly secure areas in the event of industrial accidents, fire, and other emergencies.

It allows operators of industrial sites to map the area around their sites, assess risks, and monitor the consequences of an accident. In doing so, it supplements the air, land and water measurements carried out by rapid-response teams when tackling challenging incidents at Seveso1 sites (such as the Lubrizol plant fire and, more recently, the Bolloré warehouse fire, both of which occurred in the French city of Rouen).  

Continuous measurement surveys carried out before an incident happens can also help officials to establish risk prevention plans by enabling industrial regions to share information and collaborate closely together to mitigate the impacts of incidents.

EONEF’s tethered balloon outfitted with ECOMESURE’s microsensors is a solution that can be adapted and configured to the needs of each site where it is deployed. The vertical measurement surveys conducted using this innovative airborne platform provide a better understanding of dispersion processes, enhance the reliability of numerical models, and put the spotlight on air quality measurements.  

ECOMESURE and EONEF are keen to collaborate on airborne measurement surveys with laboratories and engineering offices that have specific requirements and constraints. We also are looking to team up on innovative and pioneering projects for measuring unregulated pollutants (ultra-fine particles [UFPs]/hydrogen sulfide [H2S]). 

The WHO as well as EU and non-EU countries are adapting their guidelines and regulations to chart a more ambitious course for the decarbonization of the planet. 

As pioneers, ECOMESURE and EONEF are committed to fighting climate change and protecting our environment by increasing the accessibility of environmental data. 

Contact us today for your next positive-impact measurement survey!

Writers : 

Julie DAUTEL, Cofounder & Business developer chez EONEF julie.dautel@eonef.com 

Laurine NICOLAS, Marketing & Communication Manager chez ECOMESURE laurine.nicolas@ecomesure.com


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