Pigeons With Backpacks Tweeting About Air Pollution in London?

“Rats with wings” equipped with tiny, tiny backbacks are monitoring the air quality in the city of London, which they call home. London has no shortage of pigeons but rather than just having them sitting around spreading excrement and disease, the Pigeon Air Patrol has taken ten “under its wing” and given them a purpose.

London’s three-day pigeon experiment

From menace to environmentalist, the French firm Plume Labs has equipped ten racing pigeons to monitor pollution levels in the skies above London.

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“Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone,” said Romain Lacombe, chief executive of Plume Labs.

“Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way.”

Plume Labs has equipped the birds with tiny backpacks which monitor nitrogen dioxide, ozone and volatile compounds.

“Air pollution isn’t sexy and people don’t engage with it,” said Pierre Duquesnoy, creative director at the consultancy DigitasLBi, which worked with Plume Labs on the initiative. “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.”

Nothing from animal groups yet

While projects like this often draw the ire of animal rights groups like PETA and others, those groups to this point have remained silent. At the end of the day, pigeons do like to fly and it would be difficult to call the 25 gram backpacks a tremendous burden. Additionally, a veterinarian has been hired to ensure that the pigeons are not being overburdened by their new job.

The pigeons new job wish ends tomorrow was envisioned during the “Solve a Problem” category of the London Design Festival at Somerset House.

London residents are being encouraged to tweet their addresses to the pigeon fleet and await their arrival to measure the air quality above their homes.

While only running through tomorrow for a total of three days, it’s nice to see the menace made useful.