Drones Against Global Dengue Outbreaks: A Startup’s Solution

Based on preliminary observations, the current technique seems to be effective, as per Machado. This isn’t the first instance where drones have been utilized to spread disease-combating mosquitoes. Following an outbreak of zika in 2015 and 2016 which resulted in 3,308 newborns with birth defects, a similar experiment was conducted in Northeast Brazil. In addition, EU-backed tests are being performed in France and Spain.

Birdview is in discussion with various biofactories, also known as insectaries, that sterilize male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, along with those producing Wolbachia mosquitoes, which upon being injected with Wolbachia bacteria are unable to spread viruses like dengue. The goal is to establish partnerships and introduce their technology to other nations.

“Contrary to what most people think, mosquitoes are the most lethal animals in the world,” says Machado, expressing a desire to collaborate with as many insectaries as possible. “This technique isn’t solely for combating the Aedes aegypti mosquito and its associated diseases but could also be employed against malaria.”

However, some experts see potential hurdles in scaling up Birdview’s model and transferring the technology to other countries, particularly low and middle income nations. Neelika Malavige, Director of the Dengue Global Program and Scientific Affairs at DNDi, believes that the method holds promise, but requires a clearer understanding of the associated costs. She asserts that the plan’s affordability and adaptability to other regions need to be assessed.

Machado points out that low-income nations have previously received financial assistance from the UN for similar initiatives, and he hopes this trend will continue. He also emphasizes the importance of decentralizing the deployment of drones, advocating for the training of at least one pilot per community in the usage of the mosquito distribution technology.

“We don’t want communities just depending on Birdview or similar companies,” Machado says. “We aim to provide the necessary tools so they can protect their communities themselves.”