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You have to see these pigeons with tiny backpacks. They’re air quality superheroes.

There’s a new flying weapon in the fight against air pollution.

Not drones. 

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Or satellites.

Photo by NASA via Getty Images.

But pigeons. Pigeons with itty-bitty backpacks. 

Image via DigitasLBi, used with permission.

These winged heroes are part of the Pigeon Air Patrol.

Pigeon Air Patrol is a partnership between tech company Plume Labs and marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi. For three days in March, they’re releasing 10 racing pigeons outfitted with teeny-tiny backpacks into London to monitor air quality. 

The birds are trained racing pigeons and are cared for by Plume Labs and a veterinarian to make sure they’re in peak health. After their three-day brush with fame, the birds will return to the simple life. Image via DigitasLBi, used with permission.

The backpacks, which are actually little fabric vests, have ultra-lightweight sensors sewn into the fabric. The sensors monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone levels.

“The backpacks were specifically designed … to fit the birds in the most comfortable way so as not to impede flight,” Romain Lacombe, CEO of Plume Labs, told Upworthy. “The 3D-printed casings were specifically designed by Plume Labs to reduce drag and protect the sensors during flight while keeping air flow optimal.” 

As the birds fly throughout the city, Londoners can tweet to @PigeonAir to get up-to-the minute information on the air quality in their neighborhood.

While this solution to monitoring air quality is absolutely adorable, air pollution is a serious issue.

An asthma program director teaches a teen how to use an inhaler. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

That’s not London fog; that’s London smog. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

While the Pigeon Air Patrol will only be in the skies for three days, Plume Labs is looking for humans to join the ranks. (No flying required.)

The lab seeks dozens of Londoners (think cyclists, parents pushing strollers, runners, and more) to test their wearable personal air quality sensors later this year. 

“The human-worn version of these sensors will be deployed in London during the course of a beta test with 100 Londoners, who will collaborate with Plume and researchers at Imperial College to map pollution around London,” Lacombe said. 

A woman bikes around London wearing an anti-pollution mask. Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images.

These personal monitors can help researchers further understand air quality in much greater detail and allow them to zero in on pollution hotspots right away. 

Air pollution is a global problem, but creative ideas and wild experiments are our best chance of solving it.

This project is proof that when it comes to saving lives and protecting the health of individuals and families around the world, no idea is too crazy. 

It’s time to get creative. It’s time to get pro-active. It’s time to let our ideas (and our birds with backpacks) take flight. 

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