The extensive experience of Aerialtronics in gas detection with unmanned aircraft systems, has lead the Belgian Ministry of Interior and Catholic University College VIVES to seek out Dutch drone manufacturer Aerialtronics as a partner in exploring the applicability of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to perform gas detection services. The two parties entered into a cooperation to investigate whether multirotor systems are suitable for discovering high-risk gas situations as well as measuring the level of gas.
For the purpose of this research, Aerialtronics’ Altura drone was equipped with a sensory part consisting of a Photo Ionization Detector (PID). A PID enables gas level measurement by ionizing suctioned air with a lamp. The pump in the PID creates suction, thereby blowing air alongside the drone. This air is subsequently submitted to the high-energy photons of the lamp, which converts the molecules in the airflow to positively charged ions. The level of gas in parts per million (PPM) is then measured by determining the level of electric charge in the ions. Aside from the real time analyses, the Altura was equipped with a sample bag to take a sample of the air above the high-risk area, to be analysed on the ground.
The research was performed by mounting the PID to the UAS using the patented Cardan adapter and subsequently flying the aircraft over the high-risk area to scan the area by means of waypoint navigation. The measurement results were collected by the on-board transmitter and sent to the ground-based receiver.
The results indicate that Aerialtronics’ UAS can provide accurate figures on the level of gas in the air, provided the end users pre-specify the type of gas that is expected to be found. Moreover, this form of data collection is efficient in that it allows users to review the figures during the flight thereby facilitating swift responses.