Fines for the most severe polluting companies have taken off in recent years, with China, Japan, the EU and the US all imposing penalties ranging from slaps on the wrist to a significant share of profits. But while analyzing data over time can show trends that help identify the world's largest polluters, emission spikes at the city or national level can be trickier. Sensors can detect particles across a larger area, but in cities with several industrial plants, authorities need more effective ways to identify the culprits.
That's where dedicated drones come in. Governments from the US, Poland and China have turned to deploying teams of drones equipped with sensors to monitor for a wide range of different emissions around industrial areas, providing police with real-time data. These drones have proven so useful that their use as pollution watchdogs has been a technological influence, seeing the field move from drones specially designed to this task to modular features and sensors that can be attached to general models.