In recent years, global health security has been threatened by the geographical expansion of vector-borne infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya. For a range of these vector-borne diseases, an increase in residual (exophagic) transmission together with ecological heterogeneity in everything from weather to local human migration and housing to mosquito species’ behaviours presents many challenges to effective mosquito control. The novel use of drones (or uncrewed aerial vehicles) may play a major role in the success of mosquito surveillance and control programmes in the coming decades since the global landscape of mosquito-borne diseases and disease dynamics fluctuates frequently and there could be serious public health consequences if the issues of insecticide resistance and outdoor transmission are not adequately addressed. For controlling both aquatic and adult stages, for several years now remote sensing data have been used together with predictive modelling for risk, incidence and detection of transmission hot spots and landscape profiles in relation to mosquito-borne pathogens. The field of drone-based remote sensing is under continuous change due to new technology development, operation regulations and innovative applications. In this review we outline the opportunities and challenges for integrating drones into vector surveillance (i.e. identification of breeding sites or mapping micro-environmental composition) and control strategies (i.e. applying larval source management activities or deploying genetically modified agents) across the mosquito life-cycle. We present a five-step systematic environmental mapping strategy that we recommend be undertaken in locations where a drone is expected to be used, outline the key considerations for incorporating drone or other Earth Observation data into vector surveillance and provide two case studies of the advantages of using drones equipped with multispectral cameras. In conclusion, recent developments mean that drones can be effective for accurately conducting surveillance, assessing habitat suitability for larval and/or adult mosquitoes and implementing interventions. In addition, we briefly discuss the need to consider permissions, costs, safety/privacy perceptions and community acceptance for deploying drone activities.
© 2022. The Author(s).