The Strange-ness: Pigeons with Backpacks Check Pollution Levels

Plume Labs logo.
Plume Labs logo.

Released by Romain Lacombe, Founder & CEO, Plume Labs


Plume Labs, a technology company that helps individuals track and reduce their exposure to air pollution, is to launch the first ever flock of pollution-monitoring pigeons across London. The initiative was created in partnership with global marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi with support from industry partner Twitter UK to raise awareness of air pollution in the capital.

Over the course of three days, Plume Labs and DigitasLBi will release ten pigeons wearing small pollution-monitoring backpacks. Lightweight pollution sensors created by Plume Labs, are stitched onto small fabric vests which fit comfortably on the pigeons and measure levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone, the main gases behind harmful urban air pollution.

The Pigeon Air Patrol will monitor air quality in the capital and report back via Twitter. Londoners can tweet their location to the handle @PigeonAir to receive an instant response from one of the pigeons (named Coco, Julius and Norbert), telling them about the level of pollution in their area.

Recipients are also invited to visit the campaign microsite, where they can view a live map of the pigeons’ flights, learn about air pollution and its health risks, find out more about the pigeons and download the Plume Air mobile app.

The campaign encourages Londoners to join the Air Patrol by becoming beta testers for a wearable version of Plume Labs’ ultra-light air pollution sensing device. A crowdfunding campaign aims at recruiting 100 beta testers in London to map out live air pollutant levels across the city.

This beta test, lead in collaboration between the Paris-based startup and atmospheric pollution researchers at Imperial College London will help scientists experiment how decentralized pollution sensing can inform individual decision-making as well as public health and environmental policymaking. It will also be the first city-wide deployment of the company’s personal pollution tracking technologies.

These personal wearable sensors will eventually complement Plume Labs’ flagship product, the Plume Air Report, an urban weather forecast for air pollution that tracks air pollution levels in 300 cities and 40 countries thanks to open data. The free mobile app, available on iOS and Android, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to provide live pollution forecasts and advice on what to do to avoid over-exposure to environmental factors such as UV or air pollutants.

Romain Lacombe, CEO at Plume Labs said: “Air pollution is a massive environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way: personal environmental trackers can help us understand our exposure to air pollution and know how to act to reduce it. We are recruiting 100 beta testers who will help scientists expriment new ways of measuring air pollution and map pollution around London — to help make the air we breathe more transparent!”

Pierre Duquesnoy, Creative Director at DigitasLBi, added: “Air pollution isn’t sexy and people don’t engage with it. So the heart of our idea was to make air pollution more accessible and relevant to people. The Pigeon Air Patrol is a perfect example of how data combined with creative storytelling can raise awareness of a serious health and environmental issue.”

Helen Lawrence, Head of Creative Agency Development at Twitter, added: “Twitter brings you closer to what matters to you the most, in real time. Over the last 10 years Twitter has been used in ways that we would never have imagined – rivers that Tweet when the water level rises, sharks that Tweet when they’re swimming near shore and now pigeons that Tweet live pollution information. Real time information, direct to your mobile is hugely useful, but add pigeons into that mix and you’ve got something really powerful.”

To find out more about pigeon activity and air quality in London, see

For Londoners interested in “flying with the pigeons” by wearing a sensor, check this out. This CrowdFunder site offers an opportunity for humans to participate.

Plume Labs is a technology company that empowers individuals to lead healthier urban lives by tracking and reducing their exposure to air pollution. In September 2015, they announced the launch of the Plume Air Report, a free mobile application for iPhone and Android that helps consumers beat air pollution by tracking and forecasting live air pollutant levels in 300 cities around the world. Find out more about Plume Labs at

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About Kay Whatley 2309 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.