|The government of Zanzibar will use drones to combat malaria / Photo Credit: nechaevko (via Shutterstock)|
On the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, drones are being tested to combat malaria, as reported by The Associated Press of New York-based newspaper The New York City Times. The machines will spray a silicone-based liquid called Aquatin on rice paddies, as these have “large expanses of stagnant water where malaria-carrying mosquitoes lay their eggs.” The liquid will spread, preventing the eggs from hatching. Aquatin has been found to be harmless to non-target organisms. It is also non-toxic and biodegradable.
The move serves as a way for the government of Zanzibar to help eradicate malaria on the island by 2023, per the strategic plan adopted by the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program. The program’s medical entomologist and lead researcher Bart Knols explained that drone spraying “is an inexpensive way” of stopping mosquitoes from reproducing. He added, “We are getting to the bottom of it as we will spray the breeding grounds of mosquitoes."
The drones were initially tested in the Cheju area of southern Zanzibar. The drone flew over the rice paddies and sprayed the water, which was teeming with mosquito larvae. The larvae would emerge as adult mosquitoes without Aquatin, biting humans infected with malaria. In the last decade, Zanzibar has employed different methods to curb malaria. For example, thousands of mosquito nets and insecticide were distributed and supplied to homes.
These campaigns were successful in decreasing the prevalence of malaria from 40% of the population to 10%. This time, the drones are part of the government’s new strategy. According to Eduardo Rodriguez of DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturer, the drone is more efficient in spraying rice paddies, as spraying them by hand consumes time and using a helicopter is costlier.
The DJI Agras drone is being tested to spray the rice paddies by drone pilots from the State University of Zanzibar. Manager of the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program Abdullah Suleiman said, “The ultimate vision of our fight against malaria is to bring malaria down to zero in year 2023 as our target.”