Developing a Modular Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Platform for Air Pollution Profiling
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The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) offers great potential for collecting air quality data with high spatial and temporal resolutions. The objective of this study is to design and develop a modular UAV-based platform capable of real-time monitoring of multiple air pollutants. The system comprises five modules: the UAV, the ground station, the sensors, the data acquisition (DA) module, and the data fusion (DF) module. The hardware was constructed with off-the-shelf consumer parts and the open source software Ardupilot was used for flight control and data fusion. The prototype UAV system was tested in representative settings. Results show that this UAV platform can fly on pre-determined pathways with adequate flight time for various data collection missions. The system simultaneously collects air quality and high precision X-Y-Z data and integrates and visualizes them in a real-time manner. While the system can accommodate multiple gas sensors, UAV operations may electronically interfere with the performance of chemical-resistant sensors. Our prototype and experiments prove the feasibility of the system and show that it features a stable and high precision spatial-temporal platform for air sample collection. Future work should be focused on gas sensor development, plug-and-play interfaces, impacts of rotor wash, and all-weather designs.