Project BREATHE is live in London already, with 100 mobile air quality sensors mounted on the roof of DPD vans, and 20 fixed units on DPD PickUp shops close to schools and play areas. By the end of May, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff will join the initiative, creating a network of over 400 sensors in total, delivering 1.5m pollution readings a day.
The sensors, which are the size of a broadband router, take readings every 12 seconds and are focused on the most critical health impactor, PM2.5 fine particles at breathing level, to provide real time data designed to help visualise the air quality issue and identify hotspots.
M2.5 refers to dangerous particles of pollution that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter. At 1/20th the width of a human hair, they lodge deep in lung tissue and are linked to many diseases including cancer and asthma.
The UK roll-out is part of a Europe wide DPD programme in partnership with expert air quality tracking provider Pollutrack, with a planned total of 2,400 sensors across 20 European cities by the end of 2021.
Once the sensors are installed and monitored for two months, DPD will provide air quality information based on real measurements, street by street, via the Pollutrack AirDiag system for local councils to help in policymaking. The data will also be available to DPD customers and academics.
DPD already operates more than 800 electric vehicles on the road in the UK. In October 2020, DPD announced plans to deliver to 25 of the largest towns and cities in the UK with zero and low-emission delivery means by 2025.
Olly Craughan, DPD head of corporate social responsibility commented: "Typically, air quality monitoring has just been based on fixed positions, whereas we are mobile and cover the whole of a city at different times. We will be providing real-time breathing-level readings that could help improve air quality for millions of people.
"The initial Covid lockdowns really highlighted the issue of air quality, as people got used to quieter roads and cities. We hope that local authorities, other key stakeholders and academics can utilise this data to help inform further research and local decision making. We are already working with the team behind the Birmingham Clean Air Zone and our data will play a key part in monitoring the real impact the zone makes, when it goes live on 1 June 2021."