Tiger PID used with Drone to Provide Aerial VOC Pollutant Mapping


Specially designed drone successfully used for accurate and fast mapping of volatile organic compounds leaking from industrial petrochemical plants

An Ion Science Tiger PID has successfully been integrated into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or ‘drone’ to produce accurate chemical mapping of pollutant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from a point source. Source locations can include petrochemical plants, refineries, large landfills, chemical facilities and petrol stations and the data is used for environmental impact assessments, risk analysis and emergency planning.




Part of an exciting research project, the partners involved were the Italian University of Catania’s Department of Chemical Sciences and Italian businesses MCX s.r.l., an industrial automation start-up and TEKNE s.r.l. The latter specialises in geological and geotechnical studies with applications using drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as topographic surveys with aerophotogrammetry, georeferenced thermographic surveys, environmental monitoring, control of areas after disasters and census of cultivated areas.

The research group, headed by Professor Nunzio Tuccitto, investigated and overcame the limitations associated with the use of UAVs in this way. Work focused on the distribution of VOCs at point sources where odour comfort, air composition and the health and safety of employees is crucial. Drones mounted with sensors have been used previously for monitoring VOCs however, if the drone is close to the source, the results can be influenced by blade-induced turbulence.

The project developed a prototype for conducting leak detection experiments on a tank of petrol at a local airfield. The Tiger VOC monitor, with a sampling probe consisting of a Teflon tube fitted with a dust filter, was attached to the base of the drone using a custom-designed polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) adapter.

The Tiger successfully monitored the levels of VOCs escaping spontaneously from the tank of petrol placed on the ground, with the results provided in parts per billion (ppb) isobutylene.

Instrument: Tiger PID Monitor

By simulating the pollutant spatial distribution in the absence and presence of a flying drone, the research group demonstrated that turbulent flows generated by UAVs can significantly limit theaccuracy of the mapping and source of the leak. However, it was possible to overcome this by using a sufficiently long probe equipped with an aspiration apparatus to transport the sample from the ground to the Tiger onboard the UAV.

The data collected by the drone was stored in the Tiger’s internal memory and processed post-operation, using a standard laptop. The concentration was linked to the GPS position of the drone using timestamps and the devices were synchronised.

A spokesperson for MCX and TEKNE commented: “The early detection of pollutants or hazardous or explosive substance leaks is more important than ever before. We can never let our guard down when dealing with the production and handling of dangerous or explosive substances.

“Some of our team had used Ion Science instruments successfully in the past but we chose the Tiger PID for this project due to its fast detection response time, long sampling probe and data logging functionality.

“With the probe attached to the Tiger, we succeeded in developing a small but effective flying chemical laboratory which can map large areas and detect chemical leaks quickly and accurately. It really is a game-changer and several companies within the petrochemical industry have already expressed an interest.”

Patented PID technology

The Tiger incorporates Ion Science’s patented PID sensor technology with humidity resistance and anti-contamination design, proven to dramatically extend run time in the field and offers over six hours of usages on one battery charge.

The ATEX-rated instrument also provides a dynamic detection range of 0 to 20,000 parts per million (ppm) with a minimum sensitivity of 0.001 parts per billion (1 ppb), offering the widest measurement range of any VOC detector on the market as well as a response time of just two seconds.

Available to hire or purchase exclusively from Shawcity in the UK and Ireland, contact us on Tel: 01367 899553 or email: solutions@shawcity.co.uk for more information or to book a demonstration.

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