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30.03.2022 | The first aerial mercury survey with an octocopter UAV


March, 2022 – Mt. Amiata, Italy. Scientists from Italy made the first real-time continuous measurement of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) with RA-915M mounted on a heavy-lift octocopter.

The scientists mounted the RA-915M analyzer on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to acquire a 3D spatial distribution of GEM in ambient air in an area of the former Hg-mining facilities of Abbadia San Salvatore (Tuscany, Italy). There, in the period from 1870 to 1980, the production of more than 100,000 tons of mercury caused a heavy environmental pollution, which requires regular ecological monitoring of mercury emissions. The study was published in the Chemosphere journal.

As stated in the article, RA-915M “great sensitivity and the octocopter optimal versatility and maneuverability, both horizontally and vertically, allowed to depict the GEM distribution in the atmosphere up to 60 m above the ground”. The surveys provided a realistic 3D picture of the GEM distribution during the UAV flights. The presented instrumental approach was able “to overcome the limitations of both fixed measuring stations, which cannot take into account the GEM spatial variability, and passive samplers, which do not provide indications on concentration variations in short periods of time”.

The Lumex Instruments RA-915M multifunctional mercury analyzer is widely used not only as a portable device for manual indoor and outdoor measurements, but, being mounted in an automobile, helicopter, boat, and other vehicles, also for continuous air surveys. The low detection limit and response time of 1 s enable real-time measurement of mercury concentration in air from a moving vehicle. It is a rapid and cost-effective tool for identifying sources of mercury emissions and mapping contaminated sites, for example, in mercury mining areas.

RA-915M mounted on a heavy-lift octocopter