Florida looks to UAVs for mosquito control

By Emily Aasand | January 15, 2015

Small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) may soon be used to aid in Florida bug-battling efforts. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has received preliminary U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval to test out the new technology.

The district plans to use two Phantom Vision 2+ quadcopters with an average flight time of 25 minutes. The aircraft will be equipped with high-definition cameras to help identify mosquito breeding grounds in hard-to-reach areas such as mangroves—a group of trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zones.

“These drones will allow us to look over large amounts of land that are hard to get to and can save so much time,” said Beth Ranson, public education and information officer for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. “If we don’t see any water, we can bring the drones back, or if we do, we can use the GPS feature to locate exactly where that water is and go directly to the source.”

Under FAA regulation, the drones aren’t able to fly above 400 feet and must be flown away from any airports, an issue Ranson says won’t be an issue because the district plans on flying the aircraft in rural, uninhibited areas.

The district is the only one in the state of Florida to have received a certificate of authorization to fly for mosquito detection. The team plans to begin training and trial flights as early as next week.

While this technology is still in the early stages of being implemented in mosquito control, there has been interest in the results and the potential use to implement the unmanned aircraft in actual treatment of mosquito control.

“We’re looking to use this technology for reconnaissance right now and if we find it beneficial, we hope to move into actually doing treatments using drones,” said Ranson.

The Florida Mosquito Control Association held its annual FMCA Aerial Short Courses conference this week in Fort Myers, Florida.