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Microsoft Research project uses drones to track emerging diseases

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Mosquitoes are the worst -- but they could also be the key to giving us a heads up about emerging diseases before they become full-blown outbreaks. That's the focus of Microsoft Research's "Project Premonition," which aims to trap mosquitos and analyze their genomes to see the diseases they're carrying. And while that concept isn't exactly new, the method of doing so certainly is: Microsoft is using drones to autonomously identify ideal locations for mosquito traps, as well as placing and retrieving them. After that, the mosquitos will be sequenced and their massive amounts of metagenomic data will be sorted with cloud computing. The hope? To find new strains of pathogens before they begin wreaking havoc, which will help us to prepare for potential outbreaks and maybe even develop cures.

"We envision a worldwide system for collection and genomic analysis of mosquitoes, capable of detecting potential pathogens and their geographic spread, before they cause disease in the human population," Microsoft Research's Ethan Jackson wrote in a blog post. So far, the Project Premonition team has tested its concept in the Caribbean island of Grenada, but it'll be interesting to see what sorts of insights they'll find once it's deployed further.

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