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Dirty Jobs in Government: Pest Mitigation

GPS helps the Florida Keys keep the mosquito population in check.

by / June 3, 2013

On the hot and humid Florida Keys, aerial spraying plays a vital role in controlling the mosquito population. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District uses advanced computer modeling and sophisticated technology to attack breeding grounds for these airborne pests.

District activities are divided into two functions: spraying for existing mosquitoes, and spotting and eliminating larva sites in the water.

Both tasks rely on helicopter flights and a sophisticated spray management system that guides the pilot to the right areas and records the concentration of pesticide being released.

Flight and spray patterns are determined at the district office and saved onto a memory card, which is uploaded to the helicopter’s onboard system. For larva sites, inspectors note locations by hand, and that data is placed on digital maps.

While in flight, an automated system consisting of two GPS antennae and a wind measurement probe records data and monitors the wind speed and aircraft direction. Spraying goes on and off automatically to ensure the cloud drifts over the appropriate area.

“The pilot just has to go to the spray area, activate the unit, and it’ll set up the first line,” said Stephen Bradshaw, the district’s aerial operations supervisor. “It’ll show the pilot where to go so the product will drift across the spray area and be more effective.”

The district also plans to upgrade its land-based technology. Instead of having inspectors report larva site findings manually, the agency is seeking a tablet or smartphone system to enter the information digitally. This way, data is directly entered on the map pilots will use to direct their spraying.  

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. Read more about dirty jobs in government.

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Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.

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