An electronic “nose” mounted on a drone can sniff out the appalling odors coming from wastewater treatment plants.
The lightweight device, dubbed RHINOS (for Real-time HIgh-speed e-NOSe), is capable of producing a real-time map of odors around a plant, an advantage over fixed sensors that give little sense of how smells travel or where they may be unexpectedly leaking. Drone-based measurements are also quicker and cheaper than the method commonly used today, which involves collecting air samples and taking them to a laboratory to be rated by a panel of humans.
Santiago Marcos, a professor of electronics and biomedical engineering at the Univ. of Barcelona, has been working on developing electronic sniffers for more than two decades. These devices typically use an array of nonspecific sensors that detect volatile compounds and inorganic gases. Because the human nose doesn’t separate compounds before it sniffs them, pattern-recognition algorithms are used to determine which combinations of compounds yield nasty scents, at least as judged by people.
While handheld e-noses already exist, Marcos and his team were interested in developing devices with even more mobility, including the ability to go airborne....
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