The latest in the advancement in drone technology? Whale snot. A Kickstarter campaign has been created to raise funds for a project that uses drones to collect snot from a whale’s blowhole. The campaign, “Snotbot: Pushing the Frontiers of Whale Research With Drones,” currently has 383 backers and has raised $24,820 out of a $225,000 goal with 30 days left to go.
Ocean Alliance of Gloucester, Massachusetts, -- an organization that explores ways to gather research samples from marine animals without disrupting them-- and Olin College of Engineering have teamed up to create the campaign. The partnership collaborated to develop drones that fly into spray clouds ejected from a whale’s blowhole to gather mucus and other organic material, WBZ-TV reported.
Currently, most research samples are collected by chasing a whale with a motor boat and hitting it with a biopsy dart, which could be considered inhumane. The drones, or “Snotbots,” allow scientists to collect research samples from a safe distance. The samples are used to study various elements of a whale’s health, including DNA, absorbed environmental toxins and hormone levels.
“If all your doctor knew about your health was from chasing you around the examination room, blasting an air horn and jabbing you with a needle, wouldn’t your chart would reflect that?” said Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr in a statement, WBZ-TV reported. “Snotbot is designed to remove that aspect of the research process.”
Patrick Stewart, the star of “X-Men” and “Star Trek,” appeared in a video promoting the project. Stewart said he supports the project as a “way to give us answers to some of the mysteries about the ocean and, particularly, whales,” WBZ-TV reported.
The Kickstarter campaign supports three expeditions to sites that are vital to the future survival of whales, according to the "Snotbot" campaign page. Those sites include Peninsular Valdez Patagonia, the Sea of Cortez and Southeast Alaska-Frederick Sound.