ENGINEERS in Bangkok have built a robot to gather and analyse data about air pollution to help forecast weather more accurately.
The robot was developed by staff from the Hydro and Agro Information Institute (HAII) with assistance from Kasetsart University and King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi.
Surajate Boonya-Aroonnet, director of the Hydro Informatics Division at HAII, said due to changing and harder rain patterns in Bangkok's city area, this kind of device could improve rain pattern predictions, as it collects data on the condition of the atmosphere.
Dr Surat Bualert, an environmental science professor at Kasetsart's Faculty of Environment, said the robot analyses the elements and the intensity of dust particles less than 10 micro-metres (PM10) in size. It also measures the greenhouse gas level in the atmosphere.
"We have built a 110-metre tower at Kasetsart University for the robot to climb to different heights in order to gather the data," Surat said. "This is because the air has different layers according to height."
He said this data was vital in helping forecast weather as air pollution had a major impact on weather patterns in Bangkok.
"The dust particles in the air are the key to rain drop formation," he explained. "The dust has the ability to absorb moisture. When the dust ab-sorbs enough water it will fall as rain."
He said air pollution dust particles were unlike normal dust - more variable because they came from different origins. Thus, air pollution dust had different rates of absorbing moisture, and the ability to shift rain patterns in the city.
"The example from the experiment in Lampang showed that the dust from a wildfire was dry and did not absorb moisture very well, so it took a longer time to gather enough moisture to fall as rain, which caused the rain to fall in other places instead," he said.
He said analysed data from the robot would be sent to HAII to help staff make more accurate weather forecasts.
"Further in the project, we are looking at using a drone to gather air pollution data at a different height, or asking for permission to use a telephone signal transmission tower, rather than building a new tower, which is more expensive," he said.