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China deploys drones for 'war on pollution'

Posting in Technology
 
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Numerous solutions have been suggested for fighting China's notorious air pollution: sprinklers on top of skyscraperssmog-sucking vacuums, air-cleaning bikes.

Now, with scientists comparing China's smog problem to a nuclear winter, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is declaring a "war on pollution." According to state media, that will include shutting down 50,000 "small coal-fired furnaces;" retrofitting coal-fired power plants to spew out less pollution; removing high-polluting vehicles from roads; and cleaning up water pollution. 

Also, drones. 

South China Morning Post reports that the Aviation Industry Corporation of China is developing and testing aerial drones that can each carry 1,543 pounds of chemicals used to clear up China's smoggy skies. 

Actually, chemical-carrying aircraft aren't a new solution for fighting smog. They've been used to disperse smog for years in China, according to South China Morning Post.

But the big upgrade here is that the new drones can carry three times more of the smog-dispersing chemicals. And, because the designs use paragliding wings instead of fixed wings, the costs are cut by 90 percent.

That's right, more chemicals that will eventually find their way back to the ground and into the waterways that China is reportedly trying to clean up. Cleaning up one problem, creating another.  

Still, the drones are just one strategy (if ill-conceived) for dealing with crippling pollution. Last year, the Chinese government committed $277 billion, over five years, to fight this problem. Earlier this week, China spent $798 million of that money to buy New Zealand's largest waste management company in order to acquire technology to aid in the fight. 

All together these moves will serve as good PR for the Chinese government to show that are doing something about the "political menace" haunting the Chinese government. But these are only small steps that are unlikely to make a dent in such an entrenched mess.

— By on March 5, 2014, 3:36 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure