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Drones combat malaria mosquitoes in Zanzibar

Datum bericht: 21 november 2019

Drone sprays rice field

These days, drones aren’t just used to make great holiday videos, as demonstrated by a pilot project launched in Zanzibar. Here, on this island off the east coast of Tanzania, drones are used in the fight against malaria.

The project uses a specially designed DJI Agras MG1-S drone. Following years of research, the technology is now being tested.

Drones spray rice fields in Zanzibar

More than 10 million people in Tanzania are infected with malaria each year, resulting in the death of 80,000 people. Many of the rice fields on the island of Zanzibar teem with malaria mosquitoes, prompting entomologist Bart Knols from Radboud University, Richard Mukabana from the University of Nairobi and social entrepreneur Guido Welter to come up with the idea of using drones to spray the rice fields.

For this project the entomologists have joined forces with DJI, a well-known drone manufacturer. Together they developed the MG1-S Agras drone to spray the rice fields with Aquatain AMF, a non-toxic, biodegradable, silicon-based liquid. Until now, spraying was carried out manually, which is very time-consuming and costly.

Unboxing the drone

According to Bart Knols, a medical entomologist and principal investigator for the project, the spray drones are a relatively inexpensive way to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing. The liquid gel sprayed by the drones spreads over the water that sits on the rice fields, killing the mosquito larvae. The substance is harmless to humans and is biodegradable, which means it doesn’t affect the rice fields themselves.

Clear target: Zanzibar to be malaria-free by 2023

Using drones to spray the rice fields is part of a new strategy in the fight against malaria. Drones are efficient because they can spray a large area in a short time.

The Zanzibar government has set itself the goal of eradicating malaria from the archipelago by 2023. If the drone tests prove successful, this technology will help achieve the goal of the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program.

This article previously appeared on Want. Image: DJI.