Concept of Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for 3D Investigation of Air Quality in the Atmosphere—Example of Measurements near a Roadside

Abdul Samad, Diego Alvarez Florez, Ioannis Chourdakis, Ulrich Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in an indexed scientific journalpeer-review

20 Scopus citations


A substantial amount of air pollution is emitted from urban sources. Hence, investigating air pollutant dispersion from urban sources is of great importance. The mechanisms influencing air pollutant dispersion also need to be studied thoroughly. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)‐based systems offer great potential for mobile exploration of air pollutants in the lower atmosphere due to the high maneuverability of multi‐rotor UAVs. The aim of this study was to develop an effective UAV system that can perform high‐resolution three‐dimensional profiling of pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM), ultrafine particles (UFP), black carbon (BC), as well as meteorological pa-rameters, including air temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. Different experiments were performed to finalize the positioning of the instruments on the UAV platform so as not to destabilize the drone during flight, even when the wind speed is high and during turbulent flight conditions. Another very crucial question is where to place the air inlet of the measurement devices. In addition, field tests were conducted to evaluate the stability of the UAV platform and the in‐flight performance of the sensors. This UAV platform was deployed to perform vertical profiles at the University campus in Stuttgart‐Vaihingen and in an area near the campus, close to the federal highway B14. The measurement campaign was performed on three days in February 2021, with a maximum flight height of 120 m above ground. The vertical profiles showed that concentrations were higher on the ground due to the proximity to the source and that high wind speeds assisted pollutant dispersion. The horizontal profiles showed that the pollutant concentrations were higher at the roadside and decreased with increasing distance from the road. In conclusion, this UAV platform represented a low‐cost, practical, and reliable method for studying the three‐dimensional distribution of pollutants near the source.

Original languageEnglish
Article number663
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
  • air pollution moni-toring
  • air quality
  • drone measurements
  • vertical profiles


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