Measuring Methane Emissions with Drones

Success Stories17 Jul 2023

Harmful gas emissions are one of the main causes of climate change. Yet many emissions are difficult to detect or leaks are not easily accessible. Read this blog post to find out how the LGD Compact is used in drones for optimized emissions monitoring.

Author: Melanie Wahlers, Technical Marketing Manager, Axetris Switzerland

Industrial plants are generally well fitted with stationary gas warning systems, but volatile emissions, hard-to-access pipelines and ships at sea are difficult to monitor. In these cases, so-called “sniffer drones” are very useful. The Danish company Explicit specializes in precisely this type of aerial emission monitoring.

Who are Explicit?

Created in 1998, Explicit focused on optimizing previous concepts and technologies for emissions monitoring. Explicit’s new developments make a significant impact on our climate and air quality. Customers benefit from reliable information on measured emissions. Depending on the application, various technologies are used for emissions measurement. Explicit works with innovative solutions in sensor systems, airborne platforms and measuring methods to achieve the required data objectives. In the meantime, Explicit has filed several patents and has already received international recognition for its emission monitoring solutions.

Challenges facing emissions monitoring with drones

Explicit is particularly focused on volatile emissions which are generally difficult to measure. Monitoring these emissions offers the greatest benefit to environmental protection and air quality. Target gases include methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3). These gases can be found in volatile emissions in a range of locations, for example in oil, gas and biogas production, on waste disposal sites, in wastewater treatment plants and at sea as methane slips from LNG vessels (Liquid Natural Gas).

The size and weight of sensor systems are key when it comes to measuring emissions with drones. Because both these factors influence the installation options on drones and their total flight time. Gas concentrations are also very low (in the sub-ppm range) and flight conditions make for a dynamic measuring environment. So sensor reaction time, low detection limit and tough design are key factors when it comes to choosing the right sensor system.

The LGD Compact from Axetris in emissions monitoring

Jon Knudsen from Explicit discovered the LGD Compact Laser Gas Detection module from Axetris for methane detection at a trade fair. He was immediately impressed by the compact design, perfectly suited to drone installation. Using a test device from Axetris, Explicit quickly got underway with system integration and ran the first tests for qualifying methane emissions from biogas production plants and measuring methane slips from LNG vessel emissions. As part of the validation process, Explicit tested the LGD Compact under laboratory conditions with popular rival technologies. The LGD Compact demonstrated outstanding measurement capacity in terms of precision, detection limits down to sub-ppm levels, linearity and reaction times, both in laboratory and field tests.


Jon Knudsen, CEO and CTO at Explicit is enthusiastic: “You’re faced with three challenges when measuring greenhouse emissions with drones: The sensor has to be light enough so as not to affect the flight time. It has to be tough enough so as not to be affected by the drone’s movements, and it has to have a measuring range which gives accurate readings even for low concentrations. The LGD Compact fulfills all these criteria for measuring methane.”

Further projects in the pipeline

Explicit is already planning further applications with the LGD Compact to measure emissions of other gases. Meanwhile, the LGD Compact now also detects NH3, CH4/CO2 and CH4/C2H6. All gases are relevant to environmental measuring technology and also part of Explicit’s applications as the company looks to broaden the types of emission sources and expand its portfolio of emission monitoring services.

We wish Explicit every success and thank them for the excellent cooperation.

Want to learn more about Explicit?

Explicit – Delivering reliable and actionable emissions data