Eagle-eyed Londoners may have noticed something different about a few of the pigeons flying around their city earlier this week. For three days, a team of 10 pigeons outfitted with tiny backpacks containing sensors took to the skies to record nitrogen dioxide levels in the city’s air—and tweeted their findings.

The Pigeon Air Patrol is a collaboration between DigitasLBi and Plume Labs, a technology company with a focus on pollution prediction. While the sight of backpack-wearing birds is eye-catching, the Patrol has a serious goal.

“Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing 10,000 people every year in London alone,” says Plume Labs CEO Romain Lacombe SM ’08. “Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible, and immediate way.”

Later this year, Plume Labs hopes to recruit 100 (human) Londoners to test a wearable device that will track their daily exposure to air pollution and identify pollution patterns. “The idea is that we can build a ‘Waze for pollution’ thanks to this data from our users,” explains Lacombe.

Learn more about Plume Labs’ efforts to combat air pollution around the world at their website.

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