Google’s Streetview cars can do more than take pictures: they can map gas leaks as well.
New Scientist reported on a project in which three Streetview cars were fitted with methane detectors and deployed in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island.
The project is the result of a partnership between an organisation called the Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach, a project which aims to provide “nonprofits and public benefit organizations with the knowledge and resources they need to visualize their cause and tell their story in Google Earth & Maps to hundreds of millions of people.”
Traditionally, environmental methane detection has been “labor-intensive and time-consuming” and focused primarily on concentration – the key safety factor. But by taking multiple drive-by readings of methane concentration, wind speed and direction, and GPS coordinates, the Google-gathered data can be used to quickly collect data over a wide area, with an emphasis on the rate of the leak – a key factor in determining the environmental impact.
The researchers developed a new algorithm and tested it against data on known leaks provided by gas utilities.