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Malaria Drones

November 11, 2014

Scientists use drones to see if environmental change boosts the spread of disease.




Disease tracking drones. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.Controlling tropical diseases means understanding what triggers outbreaks. Epidemiologist Kimberly Fornace, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is deploying drones in Malaysia to study malaria there. It’s transmitted by mosquitoes, and carried by macaque monkeys. In the journal Trends in Parasitology, Fornace explains that deforestation may be bringing both of them into greater contact with people.

KIMBERLY FORNACE (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine):

And so we’re looking at areas that were recently cleared and how that affects the movement of macaques as well as where mosquitoes can be found and where people are going.


Drone flyovers reveal changes in habitat over weeks, months and years that could contribute to the spread of malaria. Fornace says many diseases are affected by environmental change, and drones could become a powerful new tool to help study them. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


(A 3-D image of the researchers’ study site in Malaysian Borneo using drone data and a photo of the Sensefly eBee drone up close. (Trends in Parasitology/Fornace et al.)