Orange County deploys drones to combat mosquito infestation in Southern California

The aircraft drops traps capable of catching triple the average number of these insects.

Southern California is dealing with a growing population of mosquitoes that could transmit diseases to humans, so drones are being deployed to prevent their proliferation.

Increased rainfall has caused an increase in mosquitoes, and traditional mosquito control methods do not always reach all areas, so robotic aircraft appears to be a much more efficient option.

As the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District explained, the drones are capable of monitoring and dropping traps that capture up to three times the 15-year average number of mosquitoes, dropping bait granules or liquid larvicide in hard-to-reach places such as marshes, wetlands, large ponds and parks.

The district claims that this method is more accurate and avoids the need to trample sensitive terrain, as is often done with standard methods involving trucks and backpack sprayers.

“We’re always looking for advancements in technology -- what can get the job (done) more efficient, more beneficial to the team and less invasive,” said Kiet Nguyen, a vector ecologist for the district that spans more than 800 square miles (2070 square kilometers) south of Los Angeles.

Nguyen also reported that the drones can fly higher than all nesting birds, and treat 1 acre (0.4 hectares) of land in less than two minutes, which would typically take a backpack worker more than an hour.

John Savage, a drone operator, explained that the treatments used are not harmful to other wildlife. “The mosquito larvae are filter feeders, so they feed on the bacteria. It enters their gut, and it’s a growth regulator,” he said.

Drone operators

According to the district, not just anyone can operate this type of drone since to do so; they must first have a remote pilot license from the Federal Aviation Administration in addition to an unmanned aircraft vector control technician license from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.