Hi-tech drones comes as a rescue to control India’s malaria menace – ET HealthWorld


By Prathiba Raju and Abhijeet Singh

New Delhi: Malaria, humanity’s oldest and deadliest vector-borne disease, has remained a silent killer. Although impressive and continued progress has been made in reducing the disease burden in the country, emerging and re-emerging mosquito-borne diseases pose a growing threat. India is the most populous country in the world and has numerous unplanned urban centers influenced by factors such as temperature, rainfall and other ecological components. drone technology It is said to be one of the cost-effective solutions to control mosquito breeding.

India accounts for 66 percent of total cases on the South Asian continent, considered the world’s malaria hotspot after Africa. According to him World Health Organization (WHO) World malaria report 2023: More than six lakh people lost their lives due to the seasonal disease, taking the number above the pre-pandemic level.

The goal of making India malaria-free by 2027 and eliminating the problem by 2030, experts say, requires AI-based platforms and contemporary technologies such as AI with drones and other aerial tools have been able to provide a more effective and efficient solution.

Drone technology is used in two ways, first as a means of spraying infectisides over bodies of water such as ponds and lakes that serve as breeding grounds for malaria-causing mosquitoes. And secondly, monitor and map a particular region to effectively meet local requirements.

Speaking to ETHealthworld, Prem Kumar Vislawath, entrepreneur at a Hyderabad-based startup Marut Drones, said, “Artificial intelligence-backed disease prediction systems provide local authorities with timely information, preventing workers from using hazardous chemicals and promoting safer environments. “Through real-time mosquito mapping, strategic alerts, custom drone deployment and GPS-tagged misting systems to precisely target breeding areas.”

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Regarding how profitable and scalable this profession is, Kumar said, “Funding to combat malaria alone will reach $3 billion globally by 2023. The future holds many new avenues for the use of aerial vehicles.” unmanned vehicles (UAV) since a large part of the operations are going to be carried out. be replaced by unmanned aerial vehicles.”

He also added: “The Indian government has banned the importation of drones into the country, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation has now made it easier for people to legally fly small drones for non-commercial purposes.”

Moving in this direction, several municipal authorities have adopted this technology in recent years. An example is the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), which has partnered with Kumar’s Marut Drones.

Elaborating on the effectiveness of the technology, Hari Chandana, zonal officer, GHMC, said, “We have seen a minimum of 60 per cent reduction in mosquito breeding after each spray. Earlier we used to spend four to five lakh rupees per lake, now we spend around Rs. 25,000 and with greater efficiency.”

Chandra also reported that drone technology covers a larger area in less time and is of great help to municipal workers, who often had to go into deep lakes to spray repellents and were exposed to skin diseases and infections.

Medical professionals and experts have also recognized the potential of the innovation and are advocating to various authorities to use the technology in their planning and response mechanisms.

Evoking his stance, Dr Preetham Kumar Reddy, pediatrician and pediatric intensivists at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Secunderabad, said: “Climate change may create a significant increase in vector activities. Higher temperatures and wetter climate make mosquito larvae to multiply.

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“Leveraging drone sensors to produce predictive analytics and data on vector activity can help generate critical alerts about outbreaks that can help healthcare professionals maintain rapid response time. “It also prevents manual workers from being exposed to skin diseases and infections due to water pollution as they have to immerse themselves knee-deep in dirty lakes to clean it,” Reddy added.

Sharing his opinion on the issue, another expert, Dr Kaushik Sarkar, director, Institute for Health Modeling and Climate Solutions (IMACS), said, “Drones are used to help map and analyze water bodies that are possible mosquito breeding sites with unprecedented precision. Additionally, IoT-enabled traps provide real-time entomological data, optimizing vector control interventions. While traditional tools constantly help reduce the global footprint of malaria.”

“With India’s emphasis on the digital revolution and its burgeoning startup ecosystem, the country is setting global trends in pioneering innovations in the health sector to combat diseases such as malaria.” Kaushik added.

Elaborating on the scope and advantages of integrating AI into other areas, Dr Sarkar said, “AI is becoming a game changer in mosquito control, it is being used in computer vision technology to strengthen diagnostic capabilities and could also provide a cost-effective solution. to address the lack of microscopists.”

Deepak Sahni, founder of Healthians, reported that technology is emerging as an important ally in addressing public health challenges in the 21st century and said: “The potential application of drone technology to control mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria It is a promising prospect that in theory, drones could revolutionize disease control and could access hard-to-reach areas, dispersing environmentally friendly larvicides over vast regions to effectively reduce mosquito populations. Although these methods are still being explored. and have not yet been widely implemented in India due to regulations and logistical challenges, point to exciting possibilities for the future of public health.”

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If technology, innovation and political will go hand in hand with a robust and integrated infectious disease surveillance system, the vector-borne diseases Control strategies will be the “new” beginning of the end of malaria, experts believe.

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  • Updated On Apr 25, 2024 at 01:45 PM IST
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  • Published on April 25, 2024 at 12:50 pm IST
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  • 5 min read
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