Fast and safe gas detection from underground coal fire by drone fly over

Lucila Dunnington, Masami Nakagawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Underground coal fires start naturally or as a result of human activities. Besides burning away the important non-renewable energy resource and causing financial losses, burning coal seams emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide and methane, and is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxins. In the U.S. alone, the combined cost of coal-fire remediation projects that have been completed, budgeted, or projected by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Remediation and Enforcement (OSM), exceeds $1 billion. It is estimated that these fires generate as much as 3% of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions and consume as much as 5% of its minable coal. Considering the magnitude of environmental impact and economic loss caused by burning underground coal seams, we have developed a new, safe, reliable surface measurement of coal fire gases to assess the nature of underground coal fires. We use a drone mounted with gas sensors. Drone collected gas concentration data provides a safe alternative for evaluating the rank of a burning coal seam. In this study, a new method of determining coal rank by gas ratios is developed. Coal rank is valuable for defining parameters of a coal seam such as burn temperature, burn rate, and volume of burning seam.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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