The Florida Keys is home to 46 species of mosquitos. Keeping residents safe and comfortable requires daily missions across the region to fight mosquitos from the air. With only one road connecting the archipelago, these low-flying pilots also have a lot to watch out for.
How does the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) use aviation technology to teach pilots precisely what to look out for before they step into the cockpit?
We first met Josh Kogut, Director of Operations at FKMCD, in 2019 when we learned how a team of pilots use aviation to control mosquito populations and keep the Florida Keys inhabitable.
FKMCD pilots find themselves in highly congested environments, which poses its own set of problems when considering how low pilots are flying.
The only route into the Florida Keys is via the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile road that leapfrogs from key to key. So, wherever there’s residential areas, there’s a lot for pilots to look out for.
In the Florida Keys, you can find towers as tall as 75 – 250 feet and power lines that go in multiple directions.
If a pilot were treating a pond in a residential area, they would have to constantly look out for wires and towers, which poses a challenge for FKMCD, who hire additional part-time pilots during mosquito season.
Unless a pilot has flown a route already, they would have no idea what obstructions exist in particular areas or how best to complete a job safely.
To combat this problem in the past, FKMCD would label different areas by color (green, yellow, and red) and slowly introduce pilots to the areas. Green signified an area relatively free of congestion, while red areas are for a more experienced pilot.
FKMCD now plans on incorporating the 3D Replay feature in the Spider X to review flights in a 3D environment. New pilots can see a real-life reconstruction of any route and most importantly, what to look out for in the trickier areas.
“We can actually show pilots how we did something,” explains Kogut.
“We’re the ones who are doing it all the time, so we can show part time pilots or new hires how we would approach something and what towers to watch out for.”
FKMCD can now use the color-coded areas to determine which 3D Replay Flight can be reviewed with the new pilots.
Today, FKMCD’s tracking technology has more purposes beyond monitoring. Knowing how pilots are flying routes helps them train future pilots, so they can quickly get back to the work their region depends on – safely.