Image by Dr Andrew Hardy
Drone technology is helping to identify potential malaria hotspots by mapping aquatic mosquito breeding habitats in Zanzibar, thanks to a pilot project funded by our grants programme in 2015.
Malaria infects over two million people annually, and about 500,000 people die each year. As part of the Millennium Development Goals, large scale campaigns were carried out across Sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of preventing people being bitten by mosquitos, which are vectors of the disease. These campaigns focused on indoor initiatives including distributing and using bed nets and spraying insecticide inside. These actions met with huge success with the prevalence of malaria dropping from 40% to less than 1% of the population in some areas.
However, in order to eradicate malaria completely, indoor initiatives are not enough. In 2015 Dr Andrew Hardy from Aberystwyth University was awarded a Small Research Grant by the Society to conduct a pilot study mapping malaria breeding habitats in Zanzibar using low cost unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. After the success of this project, Andrew has continued this research and now works with the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination programme.
Using drones his team are able to create precise and accurate maps of potential mosquito egg-laying habitats, which often include the fringes of rivers, roadside culverts and rice paddies. Once egg-laying habitats are identified and mapped, they can be treated with a larvicide to kill mosquitos at the larval stage, interrupting the malarial transmission cycle.
Using drones is an efficient method for identifying breeding hotspots – a single drone can survey a 30 hectare rice paddy in 20 minutes. The imagery can then be processed and analysed on the same day, providing an accurate and efficient way of mapping mosquito laying hotspots.
Now the team hope to incorporate drone imagery into smartphone technology to help develop this work further by guiding larvicide spraying teams to water bodies on the ground.
Learn more about this project with Andrew’s TED talk and article he wrote for The Conversation.
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