Malaria is an infectious disease that affects both humans and animals alike. It is just one of the many diseases in the world that are transmitted by mosquitoes—that is, you contract the disease when an infected mosquito bites you. Its incubation period is typically around ten to fifteen days, after which symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, fever, and vomiting may arise.
Even in this age when the world is enjoying the benefits of modern medical advancements, there are still some conditions and diseases that these advancements can’t totally eradicate. Malaria is one of these diseases. In 2017 alone, around 219 million people in the world contracted the disease, and approximately 435,000 people died. From this figure, over 90 percent of the cases occurred in Africa, and over 60 percent of those were small children.
Such global devastation is terrible to read about, but it can be easy to grow numb to the horrifying reality of the disease, especially when you hear about it every day. Also, seeing such high statistics can make it difficult for anyone to fully comprehend the full impact of the disease on everyone it touches.
But all this doesn’t mean that medical experts are not working round the clock to try to combat the disease. One such expert is Guido Walter of the company Anti-Malaria Drones, who developed a drone-assisted approach to fighting malaria in 2015. To do this, he solicited the knowledge and assistance of Dr. Bart Knols from Radboud University in inventing a new method of larval source management (LSM) with the help of drones.
Female mosquitoes commonly lay eggs in shallow and stagnant bodies of water such as swamps, marshes, river banks, and even rice paddies. Via LSM, we can prevent the spread of malaria by targeting their breeding sites and potentially suppressing their population. However, the traditional LSM method is said to have its own disadvantages. For one, it typically uses harmful pesticides, which can be problematic if used in rice paddies. Also, such pesticides are applied via a manual method, which then exposes the people spraying to both the chemicals and the infected mosquitoes.
Keeping these disadvantages in mind, Welter and Dr. Knols invented what they believe is the perfect solution: a non-toxic biodegradable solution that will do the job of eradicating the population of mosquito larvae and pupae. But they had another pressing concern: how would they be able to distribute the solution in the most efficient way possible?
It was then that they approached DJI about a drone that could be used to spray the helpful solution. DJI rose up to the challenge and produced the Agras MG-1S, an efficient agricultural drone that could potentially do the job. While initial tests revealed a few flaws, DJI proceeded to customize and enhance the design and features of the drone so as to improve its functions. In that time, the entire team consisting of Welter, Dr. Knols, and a team of entomologists also waited for full permits to be granted regarding the operation of the drone.
After years of planning, customizing, and waiting, they finally had that chance in October 2019. A team of professional pilots from various countries were trained in operating the MG-1S and distributing the solution on rice paddies. The results of the experiment are expected to be published, but they are seeing positive signs so far. It won’t be too long before we will have lessened, if not eradicated, these sources of malaria.