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Microsoft’s Latest Drone to Stop Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Microsoft’s Latest Drone to Stop Mosquito-Borne Diseases

With the latest drone technology already being used to stop diseases from spreading through UAV delivery of medications, Microsoft has one-upped the ante with Project Premonition, an initiative that aims to stop mosquito-borne diseases even before there is an outbreak. Capturing Mosquitos Using Next-Gen Drone Technology Mosquitos act as carriers for several deadly diseases including

With the latest drone technology already being used to stop diseases from spreading through UAV delivery of medications, Microsoft has one-upped the ante with Project Premonition, an initiative that aims to stop mosquito-borne diseases even before there is an outbreak.

Capturing Mosquitos Using Next-Gen Drone Technology

Mosquitos act as carriers for several deadly diseases including malaria. In order to check if a certain population of mosquitos carry such a disease, their blood must be analyzed in a laboratory – which is something health experts do to prepare for an outbreak. Up until now, mosquitos were usually caught for this testing using mosquito traps that are extremely power-hungry and require dry ice as bait. These characteristics make them unsuitable for use in remote regions in Africa, where disease outbreaks are frequent because of these tiny carriers.

Microsoft is developing a new type of low-power trap that could be attached to drones in order to collect mosquito samples from the remotest of regions. For this purpose, a semi-autonomous drone is being developed that will require minimal human guidance for taking off, locating the mosquitos in remote regions, and capturing them using the on-board trap. The drone will then return with the samples, which will be tested for diseases in laboratories. They plan to use these drones in regions such as Brazil and Africa to monitor diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Although Microsoft has not disclosed the type or the platform the drone is going to be based on, it is safe to assume from previous mentions that it will be a multirotor. Microsoft has previously been seen using a DJI Phantom 2 for initial testing and, in addition, the hovering ability of multirotors inherently gives them an edge over other platforms in this application.

The traps, which Microsoft is designing from scratch, include a specialized sensor along with a bait system to automatically sort mosquitos from other insects. This is not possible using today’s traps, which capture all sorts of bugs and require extensive effort to extract the few mosquitos present in the mixture. Microsoft’s trap will help to increase the number of captured mosquitos and will be extremely cost-effective and lighter than current offerings, which can start at over $300 per unit.

The drones will be running custom software that will sense the environment around them in order to autonomously navigate around obstacles. Microsoft is already investing heavily in building such cyber-physical systems, a type of technology also used in the HoloLens. Adding such systems to multirotors is a great development platform for future applications.

How This Drone Technology Could Change Disease Pathways

In the current scenario, diseases are detected only after humans have been exposed and transmission has already begun. By detecting the presence of a disease in the wild, preventive action can be quickly taken to stop the disease from actually having an impact. Such preventive measures would be extremely beneficial if they were applied when endemic diseases such as dengue fever were breaking out.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has already worked tirelessly in the past to reduce mosquito-borne diseases. This initiative will assist him in furthering his aim to eradicate such illnesses. Along with helping humanity, Project Premonition also holds a greater torch for Microsoft’s future. A system will be developed where a machine will have to remotely interact with the environment in order to make decisions such as taking evasive action. Such technology can help further Microsoft’s interactive gaming ambitions, which will help improve existing products such as the Kinect.

It is encouraging to see the world’s brightest minds increasingly working with the latest drone technology to move society forward through humanitarian applications like this. Do you agree? Or do you believe Microsoft has a better place to put its efforts into? Please let us know!

Image via Flickr: Ian Tunbridge

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