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The government wants to fight Zika with drones.

October 13, 2016

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Wednesday it will award $3.3 million to five different groups with innovative ideas to curb and prevent Zika: two of which include plans for drones.

One of the most intriguing concepts is to introduce sterile mosquitoes into the ecosystem to dilute the infected population. These “love mates” (their words, not ours) will distract the infected mosquitoes until they die, but they will not be able to reproduce.

Another program aims to deliver medical supplies, and retrieve lab samples from inaccessible villages. The drone program could make treatment much more efficient in hard-to-navigate places, such as Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.

In addition to drones, USAID is also funding more than 20 other revolutionary Zika solutions (think: sandals embedded with insect repellant, human-scented mosquito traps, and dosing mosquito larvae with a bacteria that would make them unable to pass on viruses).

"By working together with leading innovators and our partners in government, business, and civil society, we will quickly scale up new innovations to help communities everywhere—including the world's most vulnerable—to combat Zika and prevent future outbreaks,” Wendy Taylor, director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at USAID, said in a statement.

Altogether, USAID has awarded upwards of $30 million to 26 groups that are either investigating Zika treatment or preparing for upcoming epidemics. These groups were selected out of a pool of 900 applicants to the agency’s “Combating Zika and Future Threats: A Grand Challenge for Development,” which opened in April.

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