Lafayette company tests drone for fighting mosquitoes
LAFAYETTE - A Lafayette company is trying to fight the bite with flight. They're flying a drone over areas that could be potentially infested with mosquitoes to map out the stagnant water that provides a breeding ground for the pest.
Mosquito Control Contractors Inc. invited news media and government officials to a Thursday demonstration of a drone at a grassy field to demonstrate how they'll use the tool. Here's an example problem scenario: City officials receive complaints from residents of a neighborhood about an abandoned house. The neighbors think an above-ground swimming pool in the house's backyard could be providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes, but a tall fence won't allow inspectors inside. Also, high grass on the derelict property could be a home for snakes, providing further risk for the person who goes in to check for mosquitoes.
MCCI's solution involves sending a drone, priced at less than $1,000 with a range of one-third mile, to scope out the scene while workers remain dry and safe, gathering real-life visuals for a full assessment of inaccessible property in the neighborhood.
Glenn Stokes of MCCI says the drone might might also be useful in checking out detention and retention ponds that are surrounded by high grass, or any other place that might be difficult to send an inspector to check out. The drone may also find use around rice fields that can be another place where swarms of potential West Nile virus carrying hosts are bred and born.
Stokes said the drone has been used by MCCI under limited circumstances for about three months. The demonstration on Thursday comes just as West Nile virus season is ramping up as the calendar days leading from August into September are when the virus poses the greatest risk. The virus generally begins to decline in October.
With chickens testing positive for West Nile at two different sites in Acadia Parish recently and three mosquito pools found in St. Mary Parish, it could be a busy year for MCCI and their new technology. The company has contracts with several parishes including Acadia, Lafayette and St. Mary.
Government officials who witnessed the drone demo will discuss its use with their legal departments and others before the technique is approved for government use. The drone could save money for abatement programs as it makes inspection easier and narrows down problem areas to increase the overall effectiveness of spraying.