NASA developing drones to track methane

By on February 3, 2015
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab is working with Pacific Gas & Electric of California to develop drones to track methane leaks. (Credit: Neal Ungerleider / Fast Company)

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab is working with Pacific Gas & Electric of California to develop drones to track methane leaks. (Credit: Neal Ungerleider / Fast Company)


Originally developed to measure methane levels on planets far far away, sensors built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are helping to measure quantities of the gas right here on Earth, according to Grist. As methane is the second most common greenhouse gas emitted in the United States, the tech will likely see expanded use in the future.

The foot-long, handheld sensors can be used by utility workers who need to spot methane leaks. But the JPL also has an industrial partner, working with Pacific Gas & Electric of California, to put the technology into drones that can provide better measurements than sensors the company already has in place at a lower cost.

The devices are called “tunable laser spectrometers” and aren’t the first piece of NASA technology that will be adopted for public use. Such past technological innovations include the likes of memory foam and scratch-resistant lenses.

Top image: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is working with Pacific Gas & Electric of California to develop drones to track methane leaks. (Credit: Neal Ungerleider / Fast Company)

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