Microsoft scientists are developing autonomous drones that collect mosquitoes to look for early signs of potentially harmful viruses being spread by them.
Microsoft launched project Premonition which is developing a system that aims to detect infectious disease outbreaks like dengue, malaria, avian flu before they become widespread.
Ethan Jackson, Microsoft researcher heading up Project Premonition, said, "This is at least a five-year vision, no doubt about it. But along the way, the advances we make in each of these areas have a lot of value in their own right."
The new mosquito trap uses less energy and relies on lighter weight batteries. It also has a a sensor bait system that specifically picks out and preserves mosquitoes for lab study.
The system is expected to be significantly cheaper and lighter than current traps. The team will use drones that can fly the mosquito traps into and out of the remote areas in a semi-autonomous way without being constantly directed from the ground.
Microsoft researchers are beginning to develop ways to make the drones more autonomous and they are working with US Federal Aviation Administration on regulatory requirements.
After collecting the mosquitoes, the next challenge is to analyze them for viruses that could pose a threat to humans.