The city of London has equipped a bunch of racing pigeons with backpacks in order to raise awareness of the levels of air pollution. Apart from being the most highly adapted type of bird to the urban areas, the pigeons were specifically trained in this endeavor.
Engineers from the Plume Labs technology company have made the birds accustomed to the small backpacks they need to carry. Inside the backpacks is equipment meant for measuring the levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide. A veterinarian has also been involved in the process to make sure the birds are not harmed in any way.
The Pigeon Air Patrol was then trained to fly at certain heights during rush hour in the busy city. It also has its own personal Twitter page, where each pigeon tweets upon request the results of the tests.
The campaign lasted for three days and has ended last Wednesday. Its purpose was also to ask the residents of the city to help by gathering the same type of information from the ground. In order to do so, they must wear the same sensing technology and thus collect information on the quality of the air.
However, Dr. Edward Wasserman has expressed his discontent with the campaign. An expert in pigeons who has worked at University of Iowa’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory, he has deemed the publicity stunt quite mundane, since pigeons are capable of much more complex activities, having been exploited for thousands of years.
It appears the birds can recognize human faces and also discriminate between pieces of art. Their lab activity has started after the Second World War. Psychologist B.F. Skinner was the one who trained pigeons to guide the missiles in the direction of the enemy ships. Back in London, they were used to transport blood samples between hospitals. However, the brilliant creatures can memorize images and even identify the differences between them.
Pigeons were also active during the First World War when they carried messages for the British. Furthermore, Paul Julius Reuter, founder of the Reuters News Agency, used the birds to transmit various information between Aachen and Brussels before the completion of the telegraph.
A similar campaign took place fifteen years ago in Mexico City when 150 stray dogs helped mankind identify the levels of air pollution of the city. However, the Pigeon Air Patrol stands for the first time urban wild animals have carried such technologies to help us humans.
Image Source: METRO
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