In one of the more unusual uses of a drone in recent history, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is considering using a drone originally designed for military and law enforcement to help combat the state’s mosquito problem.
While it’s not all that unsurprising that drones are being pushed for use by television stations and other commercial applications like real estate photography, using drones to eradicate mosquitoes is quite novel.
The drone would be used to spot the shallow-water pools that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes around the Florida Keys, making the task of eradicating the bugs a bit easier.
The mosquito control agency will be using Condor Aerial’s Maveric drone outfitted with a shortwave infrared camera.
The Maveric, priced at around $80,000 including insurance, is capable of flying up to 25,000 feet high, weighs only 2.6 pounds, can fly up to 55 knots (around 63 miles per hour), has a range of 3.1 to 6.2 miles and can be launched by hand or by tube.
“It’s very much designed for law enforcement when you watch the video, but it has a short-wave infrared camera we may be able to use to detect shallow water,” said Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Director Michael Doyle. “It may or may not; that’s what we have to find out.”
Doyle told KeysNet that several government officials have been invited to a test flight on August 26.
While the drone is currently aimed solely at detecting mosquito breeding grounds, at some point in the future they could also destroy the population as well, according to IEEE Spectrum.
“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 to drone fly around and bomb water pools it finds directly,” Evan Ackerman writes for Spectrum.
The possibility of a drone dropping a larvicide payload is quite realistic. The capability was shown in June of this year at the 2013 SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition, a recap of which can be seen below:
However, Spectrum points out that the most awesome of all mosquito destruction methods would be the “Photonic Fence Anti-Mosquito Laser System” produced by Intellectual Ventures, seen in action below:
At this point, destroying mosquitoes with lasers is a bit fantastical, but the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will reportedly know within a week of the first test flight if the Maveric drone will help them locate breeding grounds.
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