The Wall Street Journal is profiling a fairly high tech approach to killing malarial mosquitoes. Using a camera and a targeting laser straight out of Star Wars (the DARPA program, not the movie), a private team sponsored by Intellectual Ventures LLC. is killing flying mosquitoes from 100 feet (30 meters) away. Interestingly, because male and female mosquitoes have different wing flapping characteristics, the system can be tuned to only kill the females since males are not blood sucking vectors.
Demonstrating the technology recently, Dr. Kare, Mr. Myhrvold and other researchers stood below a small shelf mounted on the wall about 10 feet off the ground. On the shelf were five Maglite flashlights, a zoom lens from a 35mm camera, and the laser itself — a little black box with an assortment of small lenses and mirrors. On the floor below sat a Dell personal computer that is the laser’s brain.
The glass box of mosquitoes across the room is an old 10-gallon fish tank. Each time a beam strikes a bug, the computer makes a gunshot sound to signal a direct hit.
To locate individual mosquitoes, light from the flashlights hits the tank across the room, creating tiny mosquito silhouettes on reflective material behind it. The zoom lens picks up the shadows and feeds the data to the computer, which controls the laser and fires it at the bug.