Mosquito-packed drones ready to join fight against Zika and other deadly diseases – UN agency
Robotics may soon be a critical ally in the fight against disease-spreading bugs, a United Nations agency said Thursday after a successful test releasing sterile mosquitos from aerial drones as part of efforts to suppress the insect that spreads Zika and other diseases.
The drone-based mechanism overcomes a critical bottleneck in the application of Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to control insect pests, said the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which developed the system in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) and the non-profit group WeRobotics. “The use of drones is a breakthrough, and paves the way for large-scale and cost-efficient releases, also over densely populated areas,” said Jeremy Bouyer, medical entomologist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
SIT, a form of insect birth control, uses radiation to sterilize male mosquitos, which are then released to mate with wild females. As these do not produce any offspring, the insect population declines over time.
However, to be effective, the technique requires the uniform release of large numbers of insects in good condition over a given area.
For instance, Aedes mosquitos, responsible for the spread of diseases like dengue or yellow fever, do not disperse for more than 100 meters in their lifetime. They are also fragile, and high-altitude releases by airplanes – often used in the application of SIT for other insects – can damage their wings and legs.
The drone-based system overcomes this problem. “We’re pleased with initial tests that show less than 10 per cent mortality through the entire chilling, transport and aerial release process,” said Adam Klaptocz, co-founder of WeRobotics.
The breakthrough technology is also cost-effective – almost half as cheap. . .
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