China's Anti-Pollution Drone Freezes Smog To Clean The Air

China is taking the fight against smog to the next level with the SYW-1, an innovative unmanned aerial vehicle (aka drone) equipped to freeze particulate pollutants right out of the sky. The drone has already performed well over roughly 100 hours of test flights and its designers at AVIC Aerospace plan are preparing for some real world, high tech smog-fighting!

The parafoil-winged drone can carry up to 80 kg (about 175 lbs) of smog-dispersing chemicals and is able to remain airborne for up to three hours. Second-generation models will be larger and able to carry up to 700 kg (1,545 lbs) of dispersants.

Initial smog dispersal runs are to take place over airports and port facilities in Ningbo, a city of 7.6 million in China's eastern Zhejiang province. You can view video footage of a recent test flight here. According to Ma Yongsheng, chairman of AVIC Aerospace, the remote-control drone is not only much easier to maintain compared to piloted aircraft currently used in air pollution remediation, it's also 90 percent cheaper to operate.

In addition, the drones will be able to perform other functions such as agricultural seeding, crop dusting, disaster relief, search & rescue support, and aerial mapping... presumably on clear days when their anti-pollution abilities aren't required.

If the thought of an anti-pollution drone sounds a tad militaristic, that's no accident: in a recently issued Government Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang stated plainly that China's government will “declare war” on pollution. It would seem that where there's smoke, there's fire.

While smog-dispersing drones like the SYW-1 may indeed help reduce local air pollution in the short term, the concept is mainly a stop-gap intended to satisfy growing public restlessness over urban air quality. As well, widespread use of such drones will certainly lead to other, related problems since freezing pollutants out of the air doesn't destroy the particles, it merely redistributes them onto the ground... and the people who complained about the pollution in the first place. In China, it would seem, one should be careful what they wish for. (via and Guancha)