This bug-zapper has laser-guided precision

This bug-zapper has laser-guided precision

This device shoots flying pests with laser beams. Overkill? Not according to Intellectual Ventures, the Seattle-based firm behind the Photonic Fence, which the company says is a more targeted weapon than pesticide. The fence creates a 30-Watt wall of near-infrared light that can identify specific species of insect. It can even tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes by analysing the way they fly. "We're looking to tell it to kill only mosquitos, fruit flies or sand flies," says Arty Makagon, technical lead for the project. "You can choose to eliminate all the small, flying things or you can choose to be very specific about the kinds of things you want to kill."Cameras and optics on the Photonic Fence detect potential pests within a 100-metre range. It then assesses the insect's form, velocity, acceleration and wing-beat frequency. "Once it validates a target as a bad bug, we deploy the lethal laser. Within 25 milliseconds you have a little insect carcass on the ground," Makagon says. "Each wall segment is designed to interrogate and, if the target is on the kill list, it will provide a lethal dose to up to 20 insects per second." The company claims the machine, which has a kill zone of 30 metres wide and three metres high, destroys 99 per cent of the insects it identifies.When Intellectual Ventures co-founder and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold came up with the idea of a bug-killing fence in 2010, the intention was to use it to improve public health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, however, the Photonic Fence has become a commercial project with a particular target: the Asian citrus psyllid. This insect invader has reduced citrus production in Florida by at least 70 per cent over the last 15 years. In August, the device will be installed on a US Department of Agriculture site in the state for its first real-world test. If all goes to plan, Intellectual Ventures aims to market the Photonic Fence to farmers protecting crops from a multitude of other pests.

"It turns out that everybody you talk about this to has a pest they want to kill," Makagon says. "Some small, flying things that are really annoying and detrimental to their way of being."

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