They’re called Snotbots–drones that fly into the cloud of spray exhaled from a whale when they surface, collecting samples of mucus and other scientifically valuable material without invading a whale’s personal space.
The cutting-edge technology was developed by Gloucester, Massachusetts-based organization Ocean Alliance in partnership with Olin College of Engineering, and a new Kickstarter campaign aims to fund three research expeditions to Mexico, Argentina, and Alaska to study the marine mammals and the oceans they live in to aid in their conservation. And the video to accompany the $225,000 campaign has some high-powered help: Star Trek and X-Men star Patrick Stewart.
In the video, researchers follow Stewart around in his daily life, getting in his face to study his behavior and collect DNA. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr then explains the benefits of the drones, both economic and scientific, in noninvasively collecting material to run diagnostics on everything from DNA, hormones, virus and bacteria loads, to chemical and toxin absorption in the whale’s system.
“If we harass an animal to study it, don’t we assume this will show up in the results?” says Kerr in the campaign release. “It certainly would in humans. If all your doctor knew about your health was from chasing you around the examination room blasting an airhorn and jabbing you with a needle, wouldn’t your chart reflect that? Snotbot is designed to remove that aspect of the research process.”
According to Ocean Alliance, Stewart has been a longtime supporter of the organization, even donating the money to build one of the drones, named Sunny after his wife, Sunny Ozell. Does this mean he’ll one day fund another drone and name it Magneto in honor of his bestie?