Microsoft Misquote Trap and Drone

Outsmarting an Outbreak

Drone-deployed robotic traps zero in on mosquitoes.

By Alexander Gelfand • Illustration by Dung Hoang

Thanks to entomologist Douglas Norris and his team, scientists may soon be able to predict potential outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and dengue—and to quash new ones before they have a chance to spread. 

In collaboration with and with support from Microsoft’s Project Premonition, Norris, PhD, MS, a professor in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, is helping to build smart mosquito traps that can be deployed by airborne drones. The traps’ sensors identify the mosquitoes and record environmental data, and the insects are later scanned for pathogens using sophisticated genomic tools. 

Norris and his team have successfully field-tested the trap prototypes in Texas and Florida. The goal is to provide the data they collect to vector-control specialists, who can then prevent disease-carrying mosquitoes from delivering their deadly cargo. That, says Norris, would be a “game-changer” for public health.