DRONES are becoming very popular. They are useful in reaching difficult-to-access places in a timely and cost-effective manner. I’m talking of the small drones, not the high-tech, long-range, unmanned aerial vehicles that are used for spying and bombing missions. The ‘small drones’ which before were just toys for the big boys, are now used by photographers and film makers.

Now, drones have found another use. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be using them for monitoring air pollution. Specifically, they will zero in on emission levels in industrial areas as part of a concerted effort to curb air pollution from stationary sources such as factories and construction sites. They will not be used for mobile sources like motor vehicles.

The deployment of drones capable of detecting air pollution was made possible through the DENR’s partnership with the Clean Air Philippines Movement Inc. (CAPMI). Under the newly launched program called Clean Air Patrol, the DENR/EMB will be able to identify the factories, refineries and power plants that are polluting the environment.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the program will be piloted in Metro Manila and eventually replicated in other urban areas across the country.“It will augment the efforts of the EMB to monitor the 20,000 industries nationwide,” he said. With EMB’s limited manpower, the use of drones for monitoring is a welcome development.

The drones that will be used have mapping capabilities and night and thermal vision that can detect source of heat and temperature. The gadgets can also identify air pollutants based on how the data are taken. They have a range of two to six kilometers from source. Initially, three drones will be operated by licensed pilots over Metro Manila on a weekly basis.

The good thing about this project is that the use of drones and their operation will be at no cost to the DENR. It will be shouldered by the private partner, CAPMI. Under the program, industries will be informed about the results of monitoring. In case of adverse findings, the EMB will issue a reminder to the concerned industry, which will also be required to submit a compliance plan complete with timetable. The EMB will then monitor the commitment of erring industries in their respective compliance plans.


In other places, drones are used for disaster management, search and rescue, for mapping and surveying, delivering goods, building inspection and even for agriculture. They are also be used by the police for law enforcement and crime prevention. The potential uses are limitless. However, if and when the use of drones have become so widespread that it poses a risk to public safety and privacy, the government might start regulating them. Like limiting their use on certain air space and requiring license for pilots.