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Ocean Alliance’s SnotBot drone (DJI Inspire) is changing the way we see and study whales

We reported briefly on Ocean Alliance before, but this video that the non-profit organization provided us with is simply too good not to be shared. The drone footage of the whales is amazing and also the innovative way these researchers have been able to use drones, is a great example of how these unmanned aircraft can be used for good in the world. DJI has acknowledged this as well and is an official partner for the not-for-profit. The organization uses an Inspire drone, called the SnotBot to capture the droplets with DNA as the whales exhale by flying the drone through the spray. Fascinating stuff!

SnotBot drone collects whale snot

Drones are making their way into many different commercial areas and so too when it comes to wildlife research and preservation. Drones are much easier, faster and less expensive to deploy. The aircraft are also much less intrusive and a lot safer for the wildlife as well as the researchers themselves. Ocean Alliance calls drones “truly extraordinary” in terms of the low cost and high-quality real-time data they enable researchers to collect.

Researchers from Ocean Alliance use drones such as the DJI Inspire to collect respiratory samples, ‘snot’ or ‘blow’ from whales, without the whales even knowing that this is happening. Furthermore, the drones allow them to collect other data such as photogrammetry, photo-ID, behavior, bio-acoustics, low-light/night-time studies and so on.

Ocean Alliance has named their drone-based whale research program, ‘SnotBot’ and this has been perhaps an odd name but as it turns out a very effective one to get people’s attention. Kids, an important target audience, understand it right away but the general media as well. They have loved the name as is obvious based on the hundreds of articles that have been published about it.

As you know, we are big proponents of drones and the innovative ways in which the unmanned aircraft can be used to make our world a better place. We know that many of our readers share the same interest and therefore we wanted to bring this amazing video of the work that Ocean Alliance is doing to your attention. So, please take four minutes of your time and check it out. We hope you will enjoy the video and let us know what you think in the comments below or on YouTube!

P.s. check out the whales’ hunting technique where they create a ring of bubbles – you can see it here almost 2 minutes into the video.


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Photo/Video credit: Dr. Iain Kerr from the Ocean Alliance. The footage was collected under NMFS permit 18636



Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo