Skip to main content


Airborne spread of disease

Research Achievements

Airborne spread of disease

Airborne plant pathogens spread disease from one farm to another, often over long distances. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are an important tool for studying transport of the culpable microbes in the atmosphere. Knowledge of the sampling efficiency of the UAVs is essential for determining the actual concentrations of these microbes. MultiSTEPS research has combined experimental aerobiology with fluid mechanics modeling to relate microbe collection rates with actual concentrations in a volume of air sampled by UAVs. Results demonstrate that flight speed, sampling plate size, and microbe size and density all affect sampling efficiency. This work has important implications for studies of microorganisms that produce a wide range of spore size and shape, such as fungi in the genus Fusarium that cause corn disease. "Estimating the aerobiological sampling efficiency of autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles" by Prussin, Stremler, and Schmale will be submitted to Aerobiologia in July.