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China is developing a super-sensitive radar that can detect the wing-flapping of a mosquito up to 2 kilometres away, according to a senior scientist involved in the government research project.

A prototype of the device is being tested at a defence laboratory at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), said the researcher, who declined to be named as the project involves sensitive technology used in China’s missile defence system.

“Identifying and tracking individual, mosquito-sized targets is no longer science fiction,” he said. “We are actually quite close to bringing this technology out of the laboratory and using it to save lives.”

Mosquitoes have claimed more human lives than all wars combined – their infectious bites still cause more than one million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

The insect plays host to a wide range of disease-bearing microorganisms, from malaria to newer viruses such as Zika.

The project is a collaboration between insect behaviourists and scientists from many other disciplines, according to the researcher. By providing a vast amount of data, the radar has the potential to help biologists learn more about the individual and collective behaviour of the pest, which could lead to new strategies to fight the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

The researcher added that the team had made progress on the existing technology and it could also have military applications, without elaborating. He also declined to say when the first full-sized radar would be completed.


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