In the same manner that military technologies are often utilized for civilian purposes, a high-tech methane detector which was originally designed to detect gases on the planet Mars has found a new function here on Earth.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab built the the Open Path Laser Spectrometer (OPLS) and have affixed it to a standard quadcopter. And given that greenhouse gas emissions are currently at a 30-year high, according to the UN, this pipeline inspector can’t come soon enough.
“These tests mark the latest chapter in the development of what we believe will eventually be a universal methane monitoring system for detecting fugitive natural-gas emissions and contributing to studies of climate change,” Lance Christensen, OPLS principal investigator at JPL, said in a statement.
Should the system get the go ahead from regulators, it could significantly reduce the amount of effort needed to inspect America’s 300,000-odd miles of natural gas pipelines, not to mention cattle and hog farms, wastewater treatment facilities and other greenhouse gas hotspots.