Technology-packed planes spray over Denton County this weekend

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on August 31, 2012 at 11:20 PM

DENTON - Four planes took off from Denton Municipal Airport Friday night for an aerial attack on West Nile virus in Denton County.

Denton County's map for aerial spraying looked like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Thirty towns or cities opted in, ten opted out, and the lines between them appear difficult to follow. But not for Clarke mosquito experts.

Spokeswoman Laura McGowan said the maps are pre-programmed into state-of-the-art GPS systems. Biologists are on the ground monitoring accuracy, she said, just as they did in Dallas County. McGowan said in Dallas no droplets fell into test zones that weren't supposed to be sprayed.

"The technology we have on board allows for changes in wind speed and direction. Even temperature, and the height at which the plane is flying," McGowan said. "It is automatically calculated and adjusted."

That means if weather changes mid-flight, the flight path is automatically tweaked to ensure droplets land where they are supposed to land.

On Friday, the pilots found there actually wasn't enough wind speed for spraying in some areas. The wind in the north was enough, but unless wind picks up, spraying over the areas to the south may be delayed.

For spraying this precise, precise tools are needed.

"Our pilots are wearing military-grade night vision goggles. They have a light bar directing them where to go," McGowan said. "They are working with top-tier technology."

The droplets being released are one-quarter the diameter of a human hair.

Spraying is expected to continue until 2 or 3 a.m. Saturday, with a second round of spraying in the same area to follow from Saturday night into Sunday morning.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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