Placer County Using Drones to Control Impending Mosquito Population

PLACER COUNTY -- The Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District has been training to use drones for locating and removing mosquito larvae.

While the operation is only a few weeks old, the agency is believed to be the farthest along in the state when it comes to using drones to greatly enhance the fight against mosquito's that carry West Nile virus.

The efforts utilize a two-drone system to first determine if a manned aircraft would be spraying in the right conditions for optimum effectiveness when it comes to controlling the mosquito population.

"Mainly, this main function for us is just going to measure atmospheric conditions," said Scott Schon of the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District. "To make sure that conditions are right for treating."

"This technology will really help out our efforts in identifying areas where mosquito's might become a risk," said public affairs manager Ada Barros.

Placer County is just over 1,500 square miles, so finding exact locations where mosquito's lay their eggs has always been a challenge.

The second drone, a much larger piece of equipment, can actually land on water and tell those in the field if a particular area needs to be treated.

"Hopefully in the future, there will be a third drone next to these, and that's the drone that would be doing the treatment," Schon said. "So, once you find the larvae and the mosquito source we could send a drone to do a specific, targeted treatment in a specific area."

The drones in operation should increase the effectiveness of the fight against West Nile virus. Especially this summer, when the region is coming off one of the wettest winters in the past decade, and locating mosquito populations will be more of a challenge.

"We believe that this will help address those issues because there is going to be so much standing water out there, and it's going to take a lot more manpower to inspect those sources," Barros said.

As for now, the district in Placer County is focusing on agricultural lands only. So, for the time being, the drones will not be flying over residential neighborhoods.