Now, China to fly kites to keep pollution in check | world | Hindustan Times
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Now, China to fly kites to keep pollution in check

This is one experiment with an age-old tradition that many in Indian cities might want to replicate: measuring air pollution with kites. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Oct 16, 2012 16:50 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

This is one experiment with an age-old tradition that many in Indian cities might want to replicate: measuring air pollution with kites.

A joint effort between a Chinese and US graduate students will soon see kites fitted with sensors flying around the smog-filled Beijing skies, measuring exactly how much pollutants are harming the 20 million citizens and the reputation of the city.

The Beijing municipality currently has 35 air quality monitoring stations spread across the city.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center's website, according to state media, provides a map showing readings from the monitoring stations over the last 24 hours. An analysis ofthe data shows the city experiences peak readings often at night.

A controversy, however, was triggered earlier this year when data released by the US embassy revealed considerable difference between their and the government measurements: the embassy’s readings were much higher.

But with experiment with kites, citizens themselves will now be able to see the degree of pollution themselves, said a report in TechNewsDaily website. The two students who collaborated on the project were Deren Guler, a master's candidate in tangible interaction design at Carnegie Mellon University and Xiaowei Wang, a master's candidate in landscape architecture at Harvard University.

“The "Float Beijing" project's kites carry air pollution sensors as well as colorful LED lights that show the level of air quality — green for good, yellow for moderate, red for unhealthy and pink for severely unhealthy,” the report said.

The students spoke with kite flyers at a local Beijing park who recommended a master kite maker in a nearby kite market. “The kite maker and his wife were "very enthusiastic" about the project, and helped the Chinese and American graduate students refine their kite design,” the report said.

The first workshop taught citizens how to attach the air pollution sensors and lights to the kites, the report said, adding that such kites will not only be able to detect and display general levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, but also collect the data and store it for later.

Float Beijing aims to eventually create an online interactive display of the air pollution results collected by the kites, as well as a book about the project.