Hypersensitive camera measures nitrogen dioxide in Belgian cities

Is the multispectral APEX camera suited for measuring nitrogen dioxide in cities? VITO is looking into this question along with the German Centre for Air and Space Travel in the European project BUMBA. In spring 2015, the first test flights of the programme will take off above Antwerp, Brussels and Liège.

Many busy European cities are struggling with excess nitrogen dioxide in the air. The gas is mostly emitted by traffic. Remote sensing is an efficient way to monitor nitrogen dioxide, but it requires an extremely sensitive camera. Through the European project BUMBA (Belgian Urban NO2 Monitoring Based on APEX hyperspectral data), Belgian and German scientists want to prove that the APEX camera can be used for this application.

The APEX camera (Airborne Prism EXperiment) was developed in 2011 by VITO and the University of Zürich. A spectroradiometer registers a hyper-detailed image based on different spectral bands (visible lights, near-infrared, middle-infrared). The APEX camera allows scientists to, for instance, follow the chlorophyll level in agricultural crops, chart the sediment of rivers or measure concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
 

VITO's role

VITO compares the results of these aerial images with measurements on the ground. It intends to use the APEX data to supplement the RIO-IFDM model, an air quality model it developed together with the Belgian Interregional Environment Agency (Intergewestelijke Cel voor Leefmilieu, IRCEL) and which charts nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

Remote sensing is an efficient way to monitor nitrogen dioxide, but it requires an extremely sensitive camera.