China Deploys Military Radar System to Fight Deadly Mosquitoes

China is developing highly sensitive radars to detect an unexpected enemy: mosquitoes.

Once developed, the new devices will be able to detect when a mosquito is flapping its wings miles away. China's central government provided a research team with a $12.9 million grant to develop what has been described as a military-grade mosquito net.

The research is being carried out by Beijing's Institute of Technology using China's advanced missile defense system, according to South China Morning Post. The technology being used is the same found on China's warships.

The radars can also collect an impressive amount of information about the insects. The radars let off rapid pulses of electromagnetic waves that hit the mosquitoes and then travel back to their origin with information such as the species, gender and direction of flight. This will help scientists discover where the mosquitoes are breeding and could help provide early warnings for communities living close to the areas where the little flies rest.

China is working on the radars at a time when scientists and international development specialists are looking for ways to eradicate mosquitoes, a major source of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Zika.

The number of cases of malaria has dropped substantially in China in recent years, but mosquito-borne illnesses are still prevalent in rural, underdeveloped areas. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 million people die each year from illnesses they caught from mosquitoes.

Scientists are also debating whether it would be harmful to the environment to eradicate mosquitoes altogether. Only around six percent of mosquitoes worldwide are female—the kind that bites humans. Of that six percent, only around half is estimated to carry disease.

There are also around 3,500 different species of mosquitoes, and some scientists have argued that wiping out a small percentage of those species wouldn't harm mosquitoes overall.