Stephen Quick & Research Team Receive Grant to Study Light Pollution in Pittsburgh with Drones

Image credit: Metro21: Smart Cities Institute

Image credit: Metro21: Smart Cities Institute

School of Architecture adjunct professor Stephen Quick of the Remaking Cities Institute and Diane Turnshek of the CMU physics department will lead a project using quadcopter drones to create a high-resolution light pollution map of Pittsburgh, as the city seeks to evaluate the impact of new street lamps. Light pollution, artificial light at night, is responsible for producing an unhealthy environment for plants and animals and impacts human health and safety. This is a problem facing metro areas around the world.

In addition to the Pittsburgh Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), Quick and Turnshek will be working with the City of Pittsburgh and the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh to implement the project and raise awareness for issues of light pollution within the city.

Use of drones in the project will allow the research team to undertake a light survey of the city at resolutions finer than can be done by open satellite surveys. The drones are camera enabled, equipped with a light meter on top of the drone to take skyglow measurements, and have GPS capability to give researchers the information they need to make correlations with other data sets.

More information about the project available on the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute website and The Tartan’s coverage from October 1 and October 29. Additional information about dark sky initiatives in Pittsburgh can be found at and