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Microsoft’s Project Premonition: Using Drones To Detect Harmful Viruses & Mosquitoes

Microsoft’s new project – Project Premonition – has recently been launched to use drones to detect viruses as a means of prevention of infectious diseases. The pathogenic organisms will be identified by a group of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) before they infect people.


Ethan Jackson, the Microsoft researcher behind the project, with a drone for a feasibility study in Grenada in March 2015.

The role of drones in our modern world has just been elevated to disease prevention. Drone technology is expected to curb the propagation of infectious ills like dengue and malaria. Microsoft aims to catch the vector of the diseases (mosquitoes) for analysis of the pathogens they might be carrying.

“The mosquito is the most dangerous animal on the planet, because it carries so many pathogens,” said Microsoft researcher Ethan Jackson, the lead researcher involved in Project Premonition.
“What we want to do is to be able to catch that mosquito efficiently, at scale and at low cost.”

The conventional way of doing the same thing is achieved by traps installed in trees. The process is time-consuming though since scientists have to collect the traps manually to harvest what has been caught for analysis. Microsoft’s new project will thus speed up the procedure, and, simultaneously, make it cheaper. Furthermore, drones can cover larger distances and carry bigger samples.

This technology is expected to allow scientists to monitor the spread of diseases propagated by mosquitoes. Moreover, in the near future, it will also be designed to enable them to identify emerging viruses before they can spread beyond control through a software that will process accurately genetic data obtained by Microsoft’s mosquito-hunting UAV fleet.

A feasibility study was carried out in Grenada in the Caribbean in March to determine whether the project would be realistic or not. Project Premonition might be implemented in five-years’ time.


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