The potential number of use cases for drones and other flying aircraft is pretty much limitless. One would not necessarily associate the use of drones with fighting diseases, yet that is exactly what is happening in certain parts of the world. More specifically, these flying devices distribute mosquitoes to regions where malaria is a big problem. It’s an interesting venture to keep an eye on; that much is evident.
Fighting Malaria with Drones and Mosquitoes
It has become pretty apparent that fighting malaria is a steep uphill battle. That should not surprise anyone at this stage, as this particular disease has been around for as long as people can remember. Solving the problem will require a very different approach compared to the methods being used right now. More specifically, it will revolve around drones and sterile male mosquitoes.
To put this into perspective, there is an experiment planned for 2018 which uses drones to distribute sterile male mosquitoes in regions where malaria is a big problem. As the sterile males cannot reproduce, the malaria-laden population will stop growing and even show signs of decline in the years to come.
It is unfortunate for the mosquitoes in question, but these insects carry a wide variety of diseases which make it difficult for humans in affected regions to survive. Moreover, they don’t just attack humans, but also other animals, making them one of the more lethal species on the planet today. Furthermore, fighting malaria after the fact has been a less-than-successful venture so far, despite some promising initial results.
While the use of drones will be considered somewhat controversial, it also validates the technology. Inserting sterile male mosquitoes into their natural environment is not something humans can or should do in person. There are other ways to control the mosquito population as well, mind you, but all of them have downsides. In particular, the use of insecticide or fumigation is considered very controversial.
This new trial will be conducted using drones manufactured by WeRobotics. The company has been approached by international aid organizations, although it is unclear which parties are involved right now. Using drones makes a lot of sense, as a lot of disease-ridden regions don’t even have proper roads. Traveling through the sky is the only viable method, which makes drones a logical solution. It all comes down to keeping this “payload” intact, which will be rather difficult. Mosquitoes are very fragile creatures, but it seems they will be put into an artificial sleep state during transport.
Ventures like this one can only succeed if there is sufficient community engagement. Spreading mosquitoes is one thing, but the local population will need to be informed about these experiments as well. Failure to do so may result in the sterile mosquitoes being killed on sight, rendering the entire experiment futile. For now, the focus will be on the Zika virus first and foremost. This project is well worth keeping an eye on, as it may pave the way for a completely new era of disease control.