Ricardo QA/QC of air quality sensor data provides reliable results for Luton Council

Ricardo QA/QC of air quality sensor data provides reliable results for Luton Council

Ricardo experts give Luton Council policy makers accurate air quality sensor measurements to help in decision making.

“Ricardo’s advice in the scoping stages of the project was particularly useful in helping to firm up exactly what we needed, as was the fact that the team was able to offer instruments from a variety of manufacturers.” Andrew Loosley, Technical Officer (Environmental Protection), Luton Council

Luton Council runs an air quality diffusion tube network, supported by Ricardo, who manage their reference monitoring stations as part of the wider Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Air Quality Monitoring Network. Luton’s air quality and transport teams’ identified a joint ambition to increase monitoring across the borough via a network of lower cost air quality sensors to support the existing setup and provide additional information from key road links, and around public service infrastructure.

Low-cost air quality sensors are a useful tool in providing indicative measurements of air pollutants. However, "out-of-the-box" sensor data can be prone to error due to variable factors that impact measurements, such as season and location. As such, raw data is not always reliable and may not reflect actual pollution levels without prior correction first.

For guidance regarding selection of a suitable system that could be used with confidence, the council turned to Ricardo for advice on sensor selection. Ricardo’s air quality experts have the technical experience and proven track record in data verification and monitoring to be able to offer independent support.

Evaluation of options

Our experts were able to help the council evaluate options and identify a suitable system to meet its requirements for establishing and reliably operating a low-cost air quality sensor network.

Ricardo’s team initially provided a high-level overview of market-ready commercial air quality sensor capabilities and set out the pros and cons of each. This helped steer the council’s requirements and shape the long-term project. Ricardo was subsequently asked to implement and deliver the sensor project across an initial three-year phase.

The team's unrivalled knowledge enabled us to understand the limitations of each sensor and guide Luton Council on which solution best met its needs. On behalf of the council, Ricardo’s team procured sensors and provided savings through up-front service and maintenance for the three-year project.

Data correction and reporting support

Sensor datasets require careful management and correction to ensure the outputs meet the measurement objectives and are as expected. Ricardo’s expertise and technical insight enabled the team to reliably analyse and report the council’s sensor datasets appropriate to the following tasks:

  • Site survey and sensor installation. Ricardo’s team provided guidance to ensure the monitoring location met the project objectives and health and safety requirements, followed by installation.
  • QA/QC monitoring. Ongoing data correction, characterisation and co-location is undertaken to ensure data quality meets LAQM TG (16) reporting requirements.
  • Data management. Ricardo’s data management software undertakes hourly data collection, checking, scaling and dissemination. Additionally, our team of experts provide daily manual checks to assess data quality and apply rectifications where required.
  • Air quality alerts. The measurements feed into a public opt-in air quality alert notification service.
  • Air Quality England reporting. Datasets of the highest quality are used to provide real-time data dissemination on local ambient conditions via the public information website. The resource brings all LBC monitoring together via a single interface.
  • Reference corrected datasets to meet LAQM TG (16) annual status report (ASR) and planning assessments as set out in laqm.defra.gov.uk/documents/LAQM-TG16-April-21-v1.pdf
  • Monthly reporting with analysis and plots to help understand pollution sources, and how concentrations are affected by changes in meteorological and local interventions (road works, lane closures etc.), with insightful finding and conclusions.

Outcome

Although the project is still in its infancy, the services provided by Ricardo’s experts will benefit Luton Council through the successful development of a fully supported long-term AQ sensor strategy. Network coverage is flexible, allowing for the semi-mobile sensors to be easily relocated to new areas and returned to previous locations at a later date to assess change.

Through the delivery of Ricardo’s cost-effective, value-added sensor data correction service, the council benefits from delivery of reliable, informative and accurate results, which are key to underpinning the council’s planning, policy, transport and infrastructure decisions.