Our District’s mission is to effectively and efficiently manage the risks from vectors and vector-borne disease in order to protect public health and improve quality of life in Placer County. Part of accomplishing this mission is to pursue, develop, and evaluate technologies that can support our operations. On December 19, 2016 the District Board of Trustees passed Resolution 2017-01 recognizing the vector control benefits of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) which resolved “that the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District Board of Trustees hereby support the development of UAS technology for the purposes of protecting public health, and shall develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure the judicious and safe use of UAS technology in vector assessment and control operations”.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Present Significant Benefits to Control Mosquitoes, Protect Public Health
For years, mosquito and vector control districts have sought and employed safer use alternatives and best management practices that go beyond traditional methods to reduce the threat of mosquito-borne diseases. The emergence of UAS presents districts with a more cost-effective and precision-based tool that could be used for enhanced mosquito detection and public health pesticide applications. Unlike traditional manned aircraft which requires a pilot in the cockpit, UAS are operated by a pilot-in-command on the ground that uses a remote transmitter. There are a number of environmental and safety benefits that UAS can offer over manned aircraft. For example, in urban settings UAS could be used to identify unmaintained pools that produce mosquitoes and threaten health. In rural settings where there is a large landscape, UAS could help agencies fight mosquitoes and other vectors in remote locations, such as in wetlands. In addition, UAS are less disruptive in wildlife management areas than physical entry and provide a significant savings over manned helicopters.
Other benefits of UAS include the following:
- Zero footprint on marsh land and sensitive lands;
- Reduced drift by using directed aerial spray applications;
- Improved monitoring of irrigation;
- Increased detection of mosquito larvae;
- Significant employee safety risk reduction;
- Reduced noise and fuel emissions; and
- Reduced costs of equipment and labor.
Integration into Existing District Programs:
The District has undertaken a multi-phase project to evaluate and integrate the use of UAS in our vector control program.
Phase 1, completed in early 2017, was to train and certify two District staff as Part 107 Commercial UAS pilots, and develop the internal infrastructure to safely operate a UAS for inspecting mosquito habitats.
Phase 2, completed in March of 2017, was to define specific missions that would be beneficial to District operations and comply with Part 107 regulations. We have identified the following mission profiles:
- Measure atmospheric conditions via UAS to support manned aerial applications;
- General visual assessment of mosquito habitat;
- Direct visual detection of larval mosquitoes in standing water; and
- Deploy and retrieve mosquito traps from hard-to- access areas such as rice fields.
Phase 3 is to conduct multiple missions of each type with the District’s two UAS. By the end of 2017, we hope to have a clear idea regarding the efficacy and efficiency of each mission type. Phase 4 is to develop the regulatory and technical capability to apply public health pesticides from UAS. We anticipate this would allow the District to conduct more precise applications in both area and timing. With the threat of invasive mosquitoes growing in California, we expect that UAS delivered applications will be an important tool to manage areas already infested as well as prevent their spread into new areas.