Project Details

Pigeon Air Patrol

Pigeons with sensors fight city pollution

By Plume Labs

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @PigeonAir

Organisation URL:
Organisation Twitter: @Plume_Labs

  • Community Engagement
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Health
  • Internet
  • Physical Computing
  • Social Software

While the days of the London fog are long gone, air pollution remains a serious – if invisible – problem. According to a King’s College London paper from 2015, almost 9,500 people in the UK capital die prematurely each year due to long-term exposure to polluted air, and the World Health Organisation reports that worldwide, seven million deaths each year are caused by air pollution.

To raise awareness of the issue, Plume Labs founders Romain Lacombe and David Lissmyr, based in France, conceived a project in partnership with Digitas LBi and an unusual team of researchers – London’s pigeons.

Over the course of three days, a flock of pigeons was released into the London air, fitted with specially made backpacks weighing just 25 grams and containing sensors to monitor ozone, volatile compounds and nitrogen dioxide. The results were published live on Twitter, and the campaign received wide press coverage in titles like TechCrunch, Washington Post, The Guardian and CBS News. 

While not intended to solve air pollution as such, the project aims to highlight the need for better measures to tackle what is a serious global health issue. “Most of the time when we talk about pollution people think about Beijing or other places, but there are some days in the year when pollution was higher and more toxic in London than Beijing, that’s the reality,” explains Pierre DuQuesnoy at DigitasLBi, who co-created the project and were the agency behind the initial proposal. 

Building on the campaign, Plume Labs has launched a crowdfunding effort to recruit over 100 beta testers in London to carry around air pollution sensors, and has also been encouraging the public to download the free Plume Air mobile app, which provides live pollution forecasts and advice in all major cities around the globe. To find out more, visit

Image courtesy of Pigeon Air Patrol

Last updated: 10th of August, 2016

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