Dengue Fever – A Persistent Problem
“Dengue still a danger as Aedes mosquito population in Singapore grows even as cases fall.” - The Straits Times
While dengue has always been a prevalent problem in Singapore, 2020 saw a dramatic increase in dengue incidences in Singapore. This may potentially be due to our increased exposure to mosquitoes in the day from strict work-from-home measures. As with previous years, the largest dengue clusters were concentrated around certain areas in the north and east regions of Singapore. Based on data from the National Environmental Agency (NEA), some of the most severe clusters have been in towns such as Tampines since 2015.
In addition, the dengue situation in recent years has been further exacerbated by the emergence of a new strain of dengue, the Dengue Virus Serotype 3 (DENV-3). While the NEA has come up with many novel mosquito suppression strategies, including Project Wolbachia, dengue cases have continued to rise.
In a bid to curb the increase in the number of dengue cases, Oceania Robotics is currently working with the Tampines Town Council to trial-run a few of our Dragonfly Mosquito Control robots at the Tampines Round Market & Food Centre, a central hub that many Tampines residents visit for their daily meals.
Figure 1: Dragonfly at the Tampines Round Market and Food Centre
The Dragonfly Mosquito Control Robot
Dragonfly is the world's first autonomous mosquito trap and kill robot. Equipped with a full suite of high performance mosquito control features, our robots offer effective protection against mosquito bites, risk of dengue and other diseases. The robot attracts mosquitoes based on an effective combination of visual and olfactory cues. The motion of the robot further increases the robot’s attractiveness to mosquitoes; studies have shown that mosquitoes are attracted to moving targets more than stationary targets. In addition, a fan acts as a passive trap to suck mosquitoes that happen to be near the robot into an enclosed chamber, where they will be caught on an additional glue trap.
Objectives of the Trial Deployment
One of the main objectives of this trial deployment was to verify if Dragonfly could traverse around the food centre without any assistance or human intervention. In addition, the team needed to ensure that Dragonfly could navigate autonomously to different way points without colliding into the public or the infrastructure of the hawker centre. The trial will also be used as a preliminary benchmark for the average number of mosquitoes that Dragonfly may catch per day.
The trial was conducted over three days at the food centre, with the team operating on rotation from 11:30am-11:30pm. Dragonfly successfully mapped the food court on the morning of the first day (see Figure 2), and the trial proceeded smoothly.
Figure 2: Dragonfly’s map of The Tampines Round Market & Food Centre and the 3 areas with the highest incidence of mosquitoes
A total of 58 mosquitoes were caught in the trap over the course of the three days (see Table 1 for more details).
Table 1: Results of Mosquito Count
Figure 3: Mosquitoes Caught on Glue Trap During the Trial Deployment
As expected from literature reviews, the most number of mosquitoes were caught in the evening, where mosquitoes are most active. These results are very promising – with the long operating hours of Dragonfly, town councils could potentially deploy the robots from mid-afternoon onwards at food centres and other crowded areas where residents are likely to frequent. This could significantly reduce the number of dengue cases in the community.
Looking to the Future
"Robotics is a very important part of how we are going to transform the economy" - Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, The Straits Times, dated Sept 19, 2020
The deployment of Dragonfly at the Tampines Round Market & Food Centre was a relatively straightforward application, as the food court was relatively robot-friendly, being mostly flat ground with few steps and ramps. It is a perfect example for the value proposition of using Dragonfly to control mosquito populations in a semi-outdoor context.
Based on feedback from the public, as well as internal discussions, the team has identified several other functions and features to work on, such as automated scheduling for operation and home function, predictive maintenance for replacing the consumables (the olfactory lure and the sticky trap), and other potential payloads designed to deter other pests such as cockroaches, rodents and birds. Public reception has been positive.
At Oceania Robotics, we believe that technology plays an important role to improve our daily lives. This deployment trial is a significant step towards using technology to reduce the number of dengue cases in the community. With different payloads, Dragonfly could also potentially be used to deter other pests, further increasing its value in the pest-control industry.
If you are interested in deploying Dragonfly or any of our other robots at your compound or facility, feel free to reach out to us at: