How a Hyderabad based startup is using drone technology to curb mosquito menace

The startup, commissioned by the GHMC, reduces manual labour and does the job in minutes efficiently.
How a Hyderabad based startup is using drone technology to curb mosquito menace
How a Hyderabad based startup is using drone technology to curb mosquito menace

Hyderabad based startup Marut Drones is on its way to considerably reduce the mosquito menace in the city. Using chemical spray through drone technology to eliminate the formation of mosquito larvae in several lakes across the city, the startup, commissioned by the GHMC, is not only efficient in curbing the growth of mosquito eggs, but also cuts down on human labour and does its job in minutes. 

Tracing the origins of mosquitoes to the lakes in the city where time-tested human labour hasn't proved effective in curbing their growth or reducing mosquito-borne diseases among the city residents (who live in the whereabouts of the lakes), the use and the success of these drones have emerged as a welcome relief for many.

Bolstered by the responses to the pilot test where the efficiency of the drone was monitored across two lakes (Miyapur and Malakam Chervu, Raidurgam) and Musi River (near High Court and Bapughat), the municipal authorities have expressed interest in investing in the semi-automated service and have hinted at taking this idea forward to several districts of Telangana, a state that has over 45,000 lakes on the whole. Besides chemical spraying, the drone-startup also offers its services in the removal of water hyacinth and doing aerial surveys of lakes. 

In an interaction with TNM, Prem Kumar Vislawath, an IIT Guwahati-product and a founder of Marut Drones, talks of the technology and the potential to enhance its impact in the future.

“Since inception, we have been identifying newer and emerging opportunities for Marut Drones in the area of mosquito eradication. After having achieved a 60% success rate in eradicating mosquitoes in our pilot projects, we've now achieved a faster, effective and most importantly risk-free method. At a work rate of 5-6 acres per hour and an effective work rate of about 25 acres per day, we are now doing what was once considered impossible through manual spraying,” Prem shares.

The problem with manual labour hasn't been about the efficiency alone, but also in terms of the intensity of the mosquito eradication, where labour could only be deployed to spray chemicals at the edges of the lakes. For long, it wasn't deemed possible for humans to spray the chemicals within the lake citing unfavourable conditions. As a result, all such efforts to curb this menace had only turned futile and an eyewash over time. Besides, the time intervals during which the human labour-spraying services were utilised were sporadic and it was done more or less as a damage control measure than a long-term solution.

With the use of drones provided by this Hyderabad startup, it only takes 10 minutes to spray the chemicals across an acre. Besides, the chemicals can be sprayed on the lake in its entirety as opposed to the manual method. The drones make use of GPS and radar for uniform, efficient and precision spraying with the ability to monitor data from time to time. With the success of this initiative, chemical spraying is feasible enough to be a regular monthly activity, says Prem.

Musharraf Ali Faruqui (IAS) Additional Commissioner, GHMC, throwing further light on the same adds, “Spraying anti-larval chemical on still water can prevent mosquito breeding. On lakes, wherever there is water stagnation or blockage or highlands, give a cushion for mosquitoes to grow. One square foot can have as many as a lakh mosquitoes. We spray chemicals within that larvae as and when we find it. Using drones, this can become a continuous process and can help us go to challenging sites where human labour may or may not be a possibility. This pilot spray has given us good results and we're in talks with Marut (Drones) for a longtime collaboration.” 

Fighting mosquitoes require a multidimensional approach, he insists. “Even if the mosquito menace around the lakes is cleared, water leakage in a community can create chaos too, we are experimenting with how technology can help us on this front.”

That's not all from Marut Drones. 

“We are now also coming up with an artificial intelligence based mechanism which predicts mosquitoes density, larvae count, real-time reports, high and low-risk areas, all in all, a complete predictive analysis. This mechanism would also help view mosquito maps by location, gender, species and sub-species and we can then plan our spraying activity accordingly,” team Marut Drones mentions. 

Despite the good intentions surrounding this initiative, Arun Krishnamurthy, an environmental activist and founder of the NGO Environmentalist Foundation of India, sends out a caution about its cons.

"Mosquito breeding to be controlled is a must and no second thoughts about that. However, mass spreading of chemicals into our water bodies can only cause more environment damage thereby leading to newer health issues. Breeding ground management is an entire science and a programme by itself. We should invest in such efforts rather than such large scale contamination of a new sort," he says.

Marut Drones offers a wide range of applications across other sectors too. Besides precision seeding, harvest monitoring, they also provide help in surveillance, land surveying and have found takers from the defence, revenue sectors and police departments. UAV research, payload drop and photography are some of the other services that the startup provides to its clients.

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