We live on planet ocean – 71% of this planet is covered by water, yet most drone companies only focus on terrestrial applications. Through their Drones for Whale Research Program, Ocean Alliance has demonstrated that there are enormous opportunities to use drones for marine wildlife conservation. Consider that the ten largest wildlife NGO’s spend more than $2.5 billion annually on wildlife conservation – and it is estimated that over $76 billion is spent annually to help conserve biodiversity.
SnotBot® is a modified consumer drone that flies through the blow of a whale and collects exhaled “snot” on petri dishes. This blow contains a treasure trove of valuable biological information: DNA, stress and pregnancy hormones, microbiomes, and potentially many other biological compounds and indicators of the animal’s health and ecology. Best of all, the whale doesn’t even know we are there. This is a non-invasive tool that is safer for the animals and cheaper and more effective for the user.
Dr. Iain Kerr and Drone Program Manager Chris Zadra described the world of conservation drones and the challenges that Ocean Alliance faces as it brings new tools and technologies to the world of whale and ocean conservation such as capabilities to tag Whales and to collect their Blow.
Ocean Alliance's historic facility in Gloucester was impressive and definitively worth a visit.
Dr. Iain Kerr is the CEO of Ocean Alliance (OA), an organization recognized as an international leader in whale research and ocean conservation since its founding in 1971 by Dr. Roger Payne. Under Iain’s leadership, OA has maintained a reputation for developing innovative benign research tools and techniques that engage scientists and conservationists alike. Iain’s interdisciplinary skill sets have been critical to the success of OA’s newest program, Drones for Whale Research, which applies drone technologies to conduct minimally invasive research on whales. Iain’s work has been featured extensively in the media of note are the National Geographic production “Earth Live” and “One Strange Rock,” BBC, Blue Planet Live, Billy Connolly’s Great American Trail, and BBC 2’s The Equator from the Air.
Chris Zadra is the Drones for Whale Research Program manager for Ocean Alliance, Inc. After receiving a Master’s in Engineering from Lehigh University, he jumped on the opportunity to combine his interests in robotics with his love of whales and the ocean. His skills in rapid prototyping, software development, and entrepreneurship help Ocean Alliance develop new, noninvasive tools for marine mammal research and conservation.
The AUVSI New England’s Annual Chapter Members Meeting featured highlights from the year, and election results for members of the board of directors