The Bulletin

Florida to use drones to find mosquito breeding ponds

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Not just annoying, but in some places, mosquitoes can transmit diseases like malaria and West Nile virus. In the U.S., places like Florida are perfect for them: warm with shallow pools of water everywhere.

Later this month, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District plan to experiment with an aerial drone to tackle the larvae. IEEE Spectrum reports.

Once the pools are found, it’s relatively straightforward to use chemicals (or fish, in some cases) to get rid of mosquitoes in the larval stage, before they take flight. But mosquitoes breed in these types of pools up and down the Keys: the challenge is finding the water.

The agency will use a Maveric unmanned autonomous vehicle from Condor Aerial -- equipped with a shortwave infrared camera -- to see if it's possible to detect pools of water likely to contain mosquito larvae.

The 2.2-pound, 2.5-foot-long device resembles a hawk in flight and costs about $80,000 including a comprehensive insurance policy.

The Maveric [video] is primarily designed for military and law enforcement search-and-rescue operations, and now it’s starting to drift into civilian and commercial applications.

Maybe at some point, drones would take over both the searching and the destroying on their own:

One option would be to use a larger drone equipped with a spraying system (which would likely still be cheaper than a manned helicopter), but if it's possible to package larvicide (fish) as a droppable payload, you could just have the drone fly around and bomb water pools it finds directly.

Several government agencies have been invited to a scheduled test flight for the UAV.

[ via IEEE Spectrum]

Image: Condor Aerial

— By on August 13, 2013, 2:04 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure