qAIRa: Using drones to monitor air quality from illegal mining areas in Peru

UNICEF Innovation Fund Cohort: Drones

Mónica Abarca
children walking by the mountains in Peru
© UNICEF/UNI117005/LeMoyne
06 December 2019

The city of Madre de Dios, which is located in southeastern Peru’s Amazon Basin, bordering Brazil and Bolivia faces deforestation as a result of illegal mining leading to contamination of air, water and land ultimately having adverse effects on the environment and surrounding populations.

qAIRa aims to address the global problem of pollution by monitoring the quality of air.

The team at qAIRa aim to assess air quality in Madre de Dios, through the measurement of pollutants; increase air quality monitoring in rural areas; create awareness about the quality of the air people breathe and its effects on health.

According to the World Health Organization,  new data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air  ontaining high levels of pollutants with an estimated 7 million deaths every year from exposure to polluted air causing diseases such as respiratory infection, heart disease and pneumonia.

Our technological solutions are connected to the internet, withstand harsh environmental conditions and are cost-effective compared to traditional solutions because they perform monitoring in larger areas and in less time.


qAIRa is developing the ‘Andean Drone’ a personalized hybrid drone (a plane with vertical take-off and landing) that carries a payload of air quality sensors including CO2, VOCs, particulate matter, H2S, CO, and SO2. The drone is embedded with a low-cost IoT static module called qHAWAX that measures the same air pollutants. In our qAIRa map software, data is processed to create air pollution maps. 

During the investment period with the UNICEF Innovation Fund, our team will develop algorithms to translate data acquired by sensors mounted on the drones to visualize air quality parameters for environmental protection.

We believe that open sourcing our code will give us the opportunity to grow faster and reach different parts of the world. In addition, the community will be able to help create better solutions that will be available to everybody.  

group picture team qAira


qAIRa is a diverse team of 10 people made up of engineers, technicians and social managers. Co-Founders Mónica and Carlos were inspired by the potential impact of the use of drones for air quality monitoring. Monica is an entrepreneur, mechatronics engineer and researcher with experience in education and the mining industry. Carlos is an aeronautical engineer with 9 years of experience developing drones for different types of industries. Our commercial director Javier brings 30 years of experience in business leadership.


We are thrilled about this, it is a great responsibility and commitment. We will take this opportunity to share the knowledge that we have and gain knowledge from the other startups working with drones.