Test project in Zanzibar uses spray drones to combat malaria

In Zanzibar, an island on the east coast of Africa, a pilot project has been started in which spray drones are used to combat malaria. According to the initiators, drones could be an important weapon in the fight against the disease, which causes more than 450,000 deaths every year.

For the pilot project in Zanzibar, a team of entomologists, experts in the field of insects, is working together with drone manufacturer DJI. An MG1-S Agras drone was adapted to spray mosquito-infested rice paddies with the non-toxic and biodegradable Aquatain AMF, a silicone-based liquid.

The liquid is dropped above the stagnant water of the rice fields, the breeding ground of mosquitoes, after which a wafer-thin layer is placed on the water surface. This prevents the mosquito larvae from breathing at the surface of the water, causing them to drown and die.

With the project, the researchers want to demonstrate that drones can be an efficient weapon in the fight against malaria, the disease that affects more than 200 million people every year and claims hundreds of thousands of lives. Before, during and after the spraying, the effect on the mosquito population and the impact of spray drones on the irrigation systems of the larger rice fields that can be found throughout Africa are measured.

According to Dr Bart Knols, the scientist leading the project, spray drones are essential to effectively treat large rice fields against the malaria mosquito: “Spraying the fields by hand is far too time-consuming. Using helicopters on the other hand is too expensive and simply not realistic”. By tackling the malaria problem, not only will fewer people become victims of the disease, but according to the researchers it will also lead to greater harvests, which could provide new economic perspectives in Africa.

After the pilot project, the researchers will publish their findings in scientific journals.