April 23, 2021
Drones have a new target; finding malaria-transmitting mosquitoes
A new initiative by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Crowddroning by GLOBHE is now finding malaria-transmitting mosquitoes with the goal of reducing the number of people bitten in the first place. What sounds like sci-fi is the result of years of research and tech development and is now being deployed at scale in Malawi.
Starting in April 2021, drones are sent out once a month to identify mosquito breeding sites, so that the larvae can be controlled, reducing the number of adult mosquitoes able to spread malaria. The initiative aims to add to existing malaria prevention efforts, such as bed nets and spraying insecticide on walls of houses, to help limit the spread of malaria currently putting 3.3 billion people in 106 countries at risk. Up until now, malaria control activities have focused mainly on preventing people from being bitten indoors, so drones are now added outdoors as a compliment. By finding where the mosquitoes are laying their eggs (finding larval habitats), there’s a potential to reduce the number of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in the areas (through larviciding, habitat modification), and thereby reducing the number of people bitten.
“The drones are taking images throughout the dry season to help us understand where mosquitoes are laying their eggs. We’re focusing on areas around dams and reservoirs as we believe these provide the ideal habitat for mosquitoes and result in surrounding villages being at greater risk of malaria during drier periods,” Dr. Michelle Stanton Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, explains. “We had some issues scaling the first trial initiatives but with the help of Crowddroning by GLOBHE we can now easily scale the data collection by outsourcing the flights to local drone pilots.”
Crowddroning by GLOBHE is a digital platform connecting to over 3800 drone pilots and their drones in over 80 countries with the goal to detect and prevent disasters. In Malawi malaria is one of the top three causes of death among children under five years old and every year malaria is estimated to cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. The hope is now for drones to help control the spread of malaria by identifying mosquito larval population target areas faster from the air than traditional ground surveying methods.
“Flying for Crowddroning by GLOBHE is a great way to earn money with my drone and pilot skills while hopefully helping prevent malaria, which claims a lot of lives in my country,” says Alexander Mtambo, one of the Crowddroning pilots flying in Malawi.
The initiative is still in its early stages, requiring more data and further research, but the hope is for a successful scale-up in Malawi which then if so can be scaled to additional countries in need of malaria control efforts. Perhaps the future of malaria is a future with no malaria - the future of possible is indeed here already.
For more information contact: Matilda Waara Holmqvist, Head of Marketing GLOBHE, firstname.lastname@example.org