BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- China is using drones to inspect heavily polluted areas for illicit pollution emissions, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Zhai Qing said on Friday.
Speaking at a panel discussion with political advisors from science circles, Zhai said drones had been dispatched to Beijing and neighboring Shanxi and Hebei provinces, as well as their surrounding areas, for pollution inspection.
The aircraft can cover 70 square kilometers of land in their daily two-hour flights and have already helped the ministry resolve over 200 environment-linked cases, Zhai said.
He said the drones will be equipped with infrared devices to allow them to operate during the night, and that the country is currently considering conducting similar drone inspections in more of its polluted areas.
Fighting pollution has long been on top of the government's agenda, but a spell of smog that enveloped some 15 percent of the country's territory a week ahead of the annual parliamentary session added urgency to the matter. Beijing at one point recorded "beyond index" measurements of particulate matter.
The ministry of environmental protection said last month that China has sent 12 inspection teams to regions worst hit by air pollution to check major polluting industries, such as steel, coal, chemicals, glass, cement and construction.