TAMPA, Fla. – A University of South Florida professor is in Uganda trying to perfect a revolutionary way to pinpoint mosquito breeding grounds and eradicate them before spreading potentially deadly viruses.
Dr. Benjamin Jacob's method uses drones, directed by a smartphone app that uses satellite data and artificial intelligence algorithms to pinpoint mosquito breeding grounds with what he said is incredible accuracy.
"We're able to now navigate and find locations of unknown sites and treat in real time using GPS coordinates, and then I can use my drones to treat those areas," Jacob said during a virtual interview from Uganda.
Jacob said drones can deliver the larvicide with much greater precision by targeting only the mosquito breeding grounds, which can be anywhere water collects.
He believes it's a much more efficient and less expensive technique than the traditional one used across Florida. Counties will typically send out teams on foot to spray for mosquitoes, then use a helicopter to dump larvicide over a broad, less-targeted, area.
"Working here in Africa really refined the technology," he said. "I think it should be implemented in every abatement district in Florida."
Jacob said the goal is to reduce or eliminate the spread of potentially deadly mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile, Zika and Dengue Fever. It also allows crews to limit the amount of land where larvicide or insecticide is being used.
"That's what this whole thing is about," he said. "We're trying to avoid [high] infection rates. That's it."
Jacob has been working on this method for several years in Africa. He said he's also tested it in Hillsborough and Polk counties with great success.
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