SnotBot for Multiple Whale Research Uses

In 2015 we plan to focus more energy on the restoration of our headquarters, the Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA, and a major focus will be the building of our new Robotics Lab. In the meantime we are continuing to push ahead with SnotBot.

This week I had an end-of-semester meeting with the robotics students of Olin College, led by Dr. Andrew Bennett, who are helping us develop the SnotBot program. The goal is to have two fully functioning SnotBot systems with first-person-view camera systems ready to go by the middle of February.

The Olin team is working on a number of upgrades including autonomous capabilities. This refinement will mean that less-skilled pilots will be able to utilize the SnotBot. We see the potential for this drone to be used in other capacities such as documenting whale entanglements and surveying animal populations in hard-to-get-to locations.

One important upgrade is a more accurate system for determining the vehicle’s height. We do have a full data feed from the SnotBot, but the GPS has some inherent inaccuracies. Knowing the height above the animal at which we can collect mucus and not disturb the animal will be crucial.

We hope that NOAA will grant us a permit to use SnotBot in U.S. waters before this summer, but in case that does not happen we will be raising funds to take SnotBot to the Sea of Cortez this spring and to our Southern Right Whale Program in Argentina this fall.

– Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance CEO