What’s that smell? This gas-sniffing drone sensor can tell

A new drone payload could have your Inspire 2 or other suitable drone working as an air quality control robot. The firm Scentroid has just released a product that can sample the air and tell you precisely what’s in it.

We’re always concerned about the air we breathe. Most major cities have unmanned outdoor labs that automatically sample and analyze the air. But what about companies that want to monitor the air, say, near a gas flare stack? Or maybe a firm that wants to monitor an oil or gas pipeline to ensure that no hydrocarbons are leaking? Scentroid now has a new mobile air quality lab, created by attaching their latest product to a drone.

See that box? See that nose? That’s the DR2000

The device is called a DR2000. The box weighs a maximum of 640 grams when packed with multiple electrochemical sensors. These sensors produce electrical signals when they come into contact with specific molecules in the air: Methane, C02, and more can all be sniffed by a probe and detected in real-time. The client can determine the exact combination of sensors desired. Someone monitoring on the ground would be able to see changes in the readings as the drone continuously samples during flight:

Highly sensitive

Scentroid designs its own Printed Circuit Boards, which integrate the various sensors available. The company says its new product can detect even the most minute levels of compounds in the air:

Our new boards are capable of capturing air pollutants at lower levels – Parts per Billion levels.

Omid Youssefi, R&D Manager

Adjusting on the fly

While electrochemical sensors are lightweight and have many advantages, they also have the disadvantage of being impacted by changing weather conditions, which have the potential to throw off accuracy. Scentroid has created a solution to monitor these changes and automatically adjusts the data to take these issues into account.

The DR2000 is ready for action

These sensors are sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, so we developed boards that account for these factors. We can factor for these changes and determine how the sensor is operating at any given moment. I haven’t seen other companies be able to do that. 

Omid Youssefi, R&D Manager

More product use-cases

With the release today of the DR2000, Scentroid has also released a brochure outlining some of the product features and associated use-case scenarios. It reads, in part:

The DR2000 Flying laboratory provides a platform to conduct both impact assessments and air quality measurements for a wide range of applications, including the monitoring of fugitive emissions, flare emissions, pipeline leak detection, methane from landfill sites, agricultural or cannabis facilities, odor emissions, military or emergency applications, urban scanning, and much, much more.

Scentroid DR2000 Brochure

The future?

With COVID-19 so much a part of our world, I asked Omid Youssefi if there were any sensors out there that might detect a virus floating in the air. Sensors aren’t at the stage of analyzing at this level, he said, but pointed out that COVID-19 may well be hitching a ride on tiny water molecules, specks of dust, etc. And these little targets, whether they’re particular matter or another molecule, can be detected by sensors. In fact, Scentroid is looking at options whereby an indoor monitor might be able to detect overall particulate matter and other levels, and then infer what the risk might be for COVID-19 transmission.

Scentroid Sniffer drone
That’s one long probe – allowing it to sniff beyond the prop wash

We have a wall unit that monitors indoor air quality. With that unit, we’re hoping to be able to measure viral loads. It’s not really like analyzing the virus, but more like looking at indoor pollution levels. If there are many occupants in a room, for example, CO2 rises, or maybe Particulate Matter rises. We can then make certain conclusion about what’s going on in the room.

Omid Youssefi, R&D Manager

Stay tuned

The development of sensors, like drones, is proceeding at a rapid pace. Scentroid is clearly on top of this game, and we look forward to seeing what they produce next. If you’re wondering about the price on the DR2000, apparently it will vary depending on the sensor package required by the client.