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Singapore: Robotics in Mosquito Control

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Two mosquito-catching robots tagged as ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Koi’ have been developed by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and are being used at the current Aedes mosquito breeding season’s peak. When compared to conventional methods, trapping Aedes mosquitoes is five to eight times more effective. The comparatively huge Dragonfly oversees catching mosquitoes in expansive outside areas, while the smaller Koi is typically employed in enclosed spaces like homes and workplaces.

The Dragonfly robot has an odd design. It covers the ultraviolet lamp and the compartment for trapping mosquitoes on its “head” with a pointed hat. It is not averse to getting wet when it rains outside either.

The smaller Koi is rounded and resembles typical domestic cleaning robots in terms of appearance. Its dimensions and operational philosophies are comparable to cleaning robots’. It can roam around freely inside while catching mosquitoes if there is enough power supply.

The research and development project is being led by Associate Professor Mohan Rajesh Elara of SUTD. He said that the development of the mosquito-catching robot is not linked to the emergence of the new Coronavirus disease in 2020.

In many areas, weeds started to grow during the circuit breaker period, breeding mosquitoes, and there was a lack of mosquito exterminators. This motivated him to lead a group of five researchers in the creation of two robots that can capture mosquitoes.

According to Mohan, the UV light on the top of the two robots attracts mosquitoes primarily. The carbon dioxide that the robots generate then draws the mosquitoes inside a locked compartment of the robot, where they stick. The robot can also selectively release smells to draw female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread the dengue virus and the Zika virus.

In response to the question of whether Dragonfly and Koi are more efficient than conventional mosquito-catching equipment, Mohan emphasised that the two robots are mobile and can quickly travel the necessary routes and blocks, as opposed to conventional mosquito-catching gadgets that are stationary and can only cover a small area. It will take a lot of them to cover the same area and capture mosquitoes.

The Koi and Dragonfly mosquito-catching robots are therefore more effective than conventional mosquito-catching equipment. The Dragonfly robot can collect mosquitoes eight times more effectively than a human for a 12,000-square-foot open area. The Koi robot can operate more than five times more efficiently than a standard five-room HDB flat in Singapore.

The government-supported Koi and Dragonfly robot research and development initiatives were the catalyst for the National Robotics Programme. Both robots are currently being produced and are being used by a number of reputable pest control businesses.

Mohan is a professor at SUTD who specialises in engineering product development and has a passion for robotics. He asserted that SUTD may continue its study in this field because there is presently no team in the world that specialised in the development of pest control robots.

His team is currently working to further improve the Dragonfly robot’s foundation so that it may operate in more unleveled terrains, such as building sites where the proliferation of Aedes mosquitoes is a major issue. This base will also include a cover to protect it from the rain. The Dragonfly’s effectiveness will increase, and its range of services will be expanded in this way.

To address the issue of insufficient staff in this area, the team is also creating and building a third robot that can be used to fumigate insects. After the introduction of the third robot, practically the entire workflow for controlling mosquitoes may be carried out by machines.

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