AFRL demonstrated its Remotely Controlled Aerial Vehicle for Application of Pesticides (RCAVAP) at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration (FPED) conducted at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia. During times of war, disease has historically caused more deaths than bullets, far outnumbering any other cause. Consider, for example, the Mexican-American war. Over 1,000 soldiers were killed in action, 529 died of wounds sustained on the battlefield, 362 suffered accidental death, and 11,155 perished from disease— mostly yellow fever, a viral illness transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. During World War II, malaria ravaged the troops. Spread by the female anopheline mosquito, the disease affected thousands of American soldiers. More recently, a single 2-week period in Baqubah, Iraq, saw 250 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis, a disfiguring parasitic disease spread by the female sandfly.
The RCAVAP (see figure) is an unmanned helicopter equipped for aerial spray missions aimed at controlling insect populations and, consequently, insect-borne diseases. This versatile spray platform should fill the niche between ground applications and larger manned platforms, such as the Air Force Spray Flight's C-130. The RCAVAP can provide effective pesticide application in areas too small for platforms such as the C-130 to access—entering before the area has been checked for landmines, clearing the area of harmful insects before troops arrive, and thus avoiding unnecessary risk to human life.
"Military public health officers often remind us that disease has killed more people during warfare than bullets. The RCAVAP is an important tool for preventing insect-borne illness," remarks Major Mark Breidenbaugh, command entomologist for the Air Force Reserve Command in Youngstown, Ohio.
At the FPED, the RCAVAP performed two demonstration flights consisting of automatic takeoff, waypoint-navigated flight, automatic payload delivery, and automatic landing. The flight path for each demonstration flight ranged from 0 to 100 ft in altitude and spanned an area approximating 1,000 sq ft.
The Department of Defense (DoD), Joint Staff, Department of Energy, National Institute of Justice, and Technical Support Working Group all sponsor the FPED, which serves the purpose of demonstrating available equipment capable of providing protection against both terrorist forces and hostile conditions having the potential to harm US personnel. AFRL, in coordination with the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, Naval Disease Vector Ecology Control Center, and 757th Aerial Spray Flight (Youngstown, Ohio), developed the prototype aerial spray platform under a Force Protection Battlelab initiative. Since the vehicle provided an opportunity for technology transfer, the lab delivered it to the 757th Aerial Spray Flight (the DoD's only full-time aerial spray operation) for user assessment.
Lt Jeffrey Miller and Ms. Mindy Cooper (General Dynamics), of the Air Force Research Laborator y's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, visit http://www.afrl.af.mil/techconn_index.asp . Reference document ML-H-05-52.