EarthSense Scientists Conclude Trees are Most Cost Effective Way of Tackling Urban Air Pollution

EarthSense Scientists Conclude Trees are Most Cost Effective Way of Tackling Urban Air Pollution

Leicestershire, UK, 13 April 2017 – Scientists at EarthSense Systems have completed a research project into the economic effectiveness of different schemes to reduce air pollution. In a study of Europe’s favourite shopping area, Oxford Street, the project team compared the comparative performance of a range of options, including trees, solid barriers and even a special paint that uses light to activate a chemical reaction to reduce the accumulation of pollution. The study will inform investment decisions for critical infrastructure in future cities, helping to protect residents against the damaging effects of harmful emissions.

EarthSense simulated airflows and pollution dispersion, taking into account local weather conditions. Solid barriers, with or without an application of the innovative photocatalytic paint, were shown to improve air quality on pavements and roads, yet the use of the paint on building facades had little impact. Planting of trees also showed a reduction in pollutant levels for the particular geometry of Oxford Street and, at up to 100 times cheaper than other strategies, was concluded to be the most cost effective.

“Road traffic emissions are the largest contributors of air pollution in the urban environment, accounting for up to 40 percent of the total NO2 emissions in Europe and contributing between 47 and 53 percent of all emissions in London. Studies have also directly linked outdoor air pollution with hospital admissions for various cardiovascular and respiratory conditions in our capital,” commented Dr Antoine Jeanjean, Head of Modelling at EarthSense Systems.

There are various types of mitigation strategies available and they can be broadly defined as ‘control of quantity’, for example congestion charging, ‘control of emission intensity’, for example carbon tax, and ‘control of source-receptor pathways’, for example passive control measures that block the source or pathway of emissions. The EarthSense Oxford Street study focused on strategies that used control of source-receptor pathways, and considered measures that improved the aerodynamic dispersion of emissions.

“Improving aerodynamic dispersion can be achieved by altering street geometry or introducing barriers. Green infrastructure or the application of specialist coatings can also be used to promote pollutant deposition and therefore reduce NO2 concentrations,” continued Dr Jeanjean. “However, these mitigation strategies can only deliver minimum reductions in air pollution, so it is imperative that vehicle emissions are targeted at source if we are to improve urban air quality.”

EarthSense Systems is a joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester.


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Editor’s Notes:
The results of the EarthSense System study are available as an academic paper entitled “Ranking current and prospective NO2 strategies; an environmental and economic modelling investigation in Oxford Street, London.” published by Antoine Jeanjean in the international journal Environmental Pollution available online at:

EarthSense Systems aims to deliver products that enable the world to visualise and solve its air quality issues. A joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester, EarthSense enables policy makers, planners and those responsible for delivering results to access real world information in order to support decision making. With a mix of hardware (air quality sensors), software (bespoke modelling), data (derived and complementary) and people, EarthSense is uniquely poised to take a lead in air quality monitoring solutions and services, making a difference to people’s lives and delivering high value information to a range of consumers and decision makers.

EarthSense has already undertaken a range of air quality monitoring projects, including trials of an airborne air quality mapper, air pollution monitoring equipment on a rocket, and mobile mapping with air quality sensors mounted in electric cars. Future plans include the establishment of a nationwide network of air quality monitoring sensors, feeding live data for up to the minute air quality predictions.


The University of Leicester is a leading UK University committed to international excellence through the creation of world changing research and high quality inspirational teaching. Leicester is among the most socially inclusive of Britain’s top 20 leading universities. The University of Leicester is The Times/Sunday Times 2014 University of the Year Runner-Up and the THE University of the Year 2008-9.  Leicester is a three-time winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, and is the only University to win seven consecutive awards from the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine. Leicester is ranked 14th out of 121 institutions by The Times/Sunday Times and the University is ranked among the top two percent in the world by the QS World University Rankings, Taiwan World University Rankings and THE World University Rankings.


Bluesky is a specialist in aerial survey including aerial photography, LiDAR and thermal data using the very latest survey technology, including two UltraCam Eagles and a Teledyne Optech Galaxy LiDAR system integrated with a PhaseOne camera and thermal sensor. An internationally recognised leader with projects extending around the globe, Bluesky is proud to work with prestigious organisations such as Google, the BBC and Government Agencies.

Bluesky has unrivalled expertise in the creation of seamless, digital aerial photography and maintains national “off the shelf” coverage of aerial photography, DTM and DSM through an on-going three-year update programme. The integrated Galaxy LiDAR system, which includes thermal and aerial photography cameras, places Bluesky at the forefront of this technology and in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and extremely cost effective solutions.


Bluesky is leading the way in developing innovative solutions for environmental applications, including the UK’s first National Tree Map™ (NTM), solar mapping and citywide ‘heat loss’ maps and is currently developing noise and air quality mapping products.

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