Mosquito-packed drones could give extra bite to Zika fight

From Reuters
January 23, 2018

TEPIC, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Spraying thousands of chilled, sterile mosquitoes from specially adapted drones could prove a cost-effective way to slash numbers of the insects and curb the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, say the backers of the technology.

WeRobotics, a non-profit trialing the method, plans to start mosquito-release tests shortly in Latin America.

It has recently piloted ways to transport medicines and medical samples in Peru’s Amazon region and the Dominican Republic using the unmanned aerial vehicles. But this time the cargo will be sensitive insects that must survive the process.

“It makes no sense to release mosquitoes that are 90 percent dead or damaged – we need to make sure the quality of the mosquito is very high so they can compete for females,” said drone maker Adam Klaptocz, co-founder of WeRobotics, which is based in Switzerland and the United States.

“The ultimate goal is to integrate drones into future vector control campaigns,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Mosquito-control programs using sterile insects often rely on trucks to disperse the bugs, or people releasing them from backpacks. Both of these are time-consuming methods unsuited to hard-to-reach places.

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