St. George's University (SGU), located on the island of Grenada in the West Indies, recently participated in a collaborative feasibility study for an infectious-disease surveillance system involving drone technology.
The objective of the study was to gather data to automate the collection of mosquitoes from the environment and to better understand how diseases can be monitored through mosquitoes. Ideally, the university explains, an automated system would be able to detect the movement of diseases through mosquitoes before outbreaks occur in the human population.
SGU’s Department of Microbiology facilitated the study in collaboration with Microsoft, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh. A video from SGU shows the team flying a DJI Phantom quadcopter over the island.
The collaboration stemmed from Microsoft's ‘Project Premonition,’ which uses a complex set of technologies including autonomous systems, next-generation gene sequencing and cloud computing in hopes of detecting emerging diseases before outbreaks happen. According to SGU, Microsoft chose the island of Grenada for the study because of its mosquito populations, ecological diversity, existing research laboratories and highly skilled scientists at the university.
The SGU project leader is Amy Baldwin, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and a former research specialist in molecular epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.