Watch This Drone Catch Whale Snot

Drone company and ocean nonprofit collaborate to solve a sticky problem

Drone Collecting Whale Snot

Drone Collecting Whale Snot

Image from Yuneec/Ocean Alliance Collaboration

To collect whale snot, drones will replace crossbows. In an oceanic research move that seems like a quantum leap in technology, dronemaker Yuneec announced on Monday that it is collaborating with Ocean Alliance to collect health data on whales by using robots, instead of shooting the whales in the blowhole.

Once a research team spots the whales, they will fly Typhoon and Tornado drones that are carrying petri dishes into the cloud of snot exhaled by the whale blowholes. Collecting this data looks like this:

Gross, but a lot less invasive than snot research used to be. From a press release put out by Yuneec and Ocean Alliance:

In contrast, most current methods of physical sample collection involve pursuit in a motorized boat and firing a biopsy dart from a crossbow. In addition to causing stress to the whales, it is believed this approach can skew results, especially with regard to understanding stress levels for whales outside of captivity.

“Snot bots are designed to remove the potential harm caused to whales during the research process. After an extensive search, we determined the Yuneec product line of quiet and sophisticated drones gives us the best possibility of success,” Kerr added.

Previously, students from Olin college used drones to collect whale snot and Ocean Alliance this summer held a crowdfunding campaign for new snot bots. This collaboration gives the alliance new, reliable drones for their conservation work, and it lets Yuneec show off its machines performing well in sticky situations.

Watch the snot bots fly below: