A chemical-dispersing soft-winged drone that reduces smog is being tested by the Chinese government, while other drones are being used to hunt down polluters.
The massive economic growth in China has come at a very visible environmental cost, as Beijing and other major Chinese cities are now plagued with air pollution.
The problem has led the new Chinese premier to declare war on smog—and the government has enlisted drones in the fight.
The state-run China Daily recently reported that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has started to deploy surveillance drones to search for illegal polluters. Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Zhai Qing announced that drones are now surveying the areas surrounding Beijing and the neighboring provinces of Hebei and Shanxi for sources of air pollution.
The drones, which cover 70 square kilometers (about 30 square miles) in each flight, have already led to over 200 actions against polluters, according to Zhai.
The ministry has employed four small drones so far, but it will not expand the drone fleet because of “a shortage of flight controllers,” according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
The drones have helped catch industrial polluters who have evaded regulators in the past by shutting down operations.