Our drone in the plume of boats in the port of Marseille

M200-BH12-dans le panache-Sunset

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Our drone in the plume of boats in the port of Marseille

Our mission: to position the drone in the middle of the plume of a ferry entering or leaving the port of Marseille


At the beginning of July 2021, we were at the port of Marseille with our “technical” drone, the M200 from DJI, able to carry the gas analysis sensor, the BH-12 from the Finnish company Aeromon.

We will detail here in pictures what precisely consisted of our participation in the second phase of air quality measurements in the framework of the European research project SCIPPER* (Shipping Contributions to Inland Pollutions – Push for the Enforcement of Regulations) gathering dozens of scientists from France, Finland, Sweden and Greece.
To learn more about phase 1, which was held in Marseille in September 2019, we invite you to read our first article presenting the ins and outs of this campaign, as well as the characteristics of the BH-12 module with gas analysis sensors.

Reminder: The main objective of this measurement operation in 2021 is to compare the data with those collected in 2019, during the 1st campaign in the harbor of Marseille, and which was held prior to the entry into force of the new international regulation – January 1, 2020 – whose purpose is to impose a reduction in the content of sulfur oxides in the emissions produced by all ships worldwide (the maximum tolerance threshold is reduced from 3.5% to 0.5% or 7 times less!)


Every morning, the BH-12 module must be calibrated by “sniffing” a given gas, stored in a cylinder.
This operation is essential to be sure of the accuracy of the measurement, and takes about one hour.

Our mission: for each ship analyzed, we had to position the drone in the heart of the plume of the ferry entering or leaving the port of Marseille, for a minimum of one minute, in order to allow the BH-12 analysis module to acquire enough qualitative data on the composition of the air coming out of the stacks of each ship monitored.Nothing is left to chance.


The M200 drone with the BH-12 being calibrated on the Digue du Large, at the GPMM.
It is 6:00 am, the first ferries are expected at 6:45 am.


Technical means used for this measurement campaign: 

  • In the air: a Matrice 200 drone carrying the Aeromon BH-12 gas sensor module, operated by a single drone pilot.
  • On the ground: a computer connected by internet to the Aeromon BH-12, allowing to see in quasi-direct the level curve of the various gases present in the analyzed air



The M200 UAV with the BH-12 in flight behind the plume of a ship leaving the GPMM of Marseille through the North pass.


Method of placing the drone in the heart of the smoke plume: To do this, we used the FPV camera of the drone to visualize in real time the positioning of the drone in flight in the smoke emitted – most of the time – at the back of the measured ferry. We say most of the time, because with the wind that sometimes blew quite strong, the plumes were on the side, or spinning. In this case, the quality of the measurement was poor because the wind dissipated the smoke and gases emitted much too quickly to allow time for analysis. The power of Aeromon’s measurement system is to be able to visualize the result of the measurement almost live. During each flight we knew whether we had interesting data or not. Based on the gas level curve displayed on the screen, our pilot followed the directions of the Aeromon engineer and was able to place the drone and the sensor even better in the center of the plume.

The Drone-Pictures remote pilot side by side with the Aeromon technician during each air quality measurement flight.
Seawall, South pass at the level of the Vigie Sainte-Marie, Port GPMM in Marseille. La Major in the background.

Permits question : In addition to the usual but nonetheless mandatory prior declarations of flight in urban areas to the Bouches du Rhone prefecture, we had to obtain that of the Port of Marseille and those of the ferry companies that we were going to approach by drone. Each ship’s captain knew that he was going to be potentially overflown by a sniffer drone. This was to prevent any alarm or panic among crews or passengers. Note that we were not authorized to approach these ships at less than 50 meters. The drone – approved to fly in cities or populated areas, equipped as it should be with parachutes, was therefore always kept above the water. A temporary access was granted to us to access and move by car along the Digue du Large, from the south channel to the north channel, at the level of the Phares et Balises building.








Final checks before the takeoff of the Drone-Pictures M200 drone and the Aeromon sniffer module. Nothing is left to chance.









6:45 am on the seawall, Port GPMM in Marseille. A ferry arrives at the port of Marseille from Corsica, through the southern pass.

Immediate take-off, despite the gusts of wind. Palais du Pharo in the background. A tricky flight with swirling plumes and a drone that was not well handled. Nevertheless the data will be usable and the M200 will prove to be able to face gusty winds with its atypical load!





We would like to warmly thank all the partners of the SCIPPER project for their confidence, their lighting and their assistance.

* This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, under grant agreement no. 814893.


Aerial view by drone of the Digue du Large, northern pass, at the level of the Phares et Balises building where the scientists had also placed on the ground air analysis systems. Photo © Drone-Pictures Marseille


Drone-Pictures with its M200 drone, and Aeromon with its BH-12 gas sensor device, put at your disposal all their expertise for air quality analysis by drone around or inside your industrial sites, everywhere in France.


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