Connect with us

Aerial Photography

Ocean Alliance Is Using DJI Drones To Monitor Whales




ChristianMiller whale snotbot mexico

Any drone pilot that’s been lucky enough to fly the original DJI Inspire will tell you that there aren’t many better aerial photography platforms out there. But that hasn’t stopped Ocean Alliance – a marine conservation organization based in the states – from finding an alternative use for its set of Inspires.

Ocean Alliance’s DJI Inspire drones have been given a weird and wonderful makeover. Sure, they are still capable of capturing incredible footage (we’ll get to that later), but the marine conservation organization is also using DJI drones to gather data from whales.

Take a look at the video below to see how:

Read more: DJI Inspire 2 Teardown – Discover What’s Inside This Expensive Drone

With a few modifications, the Ocean Alliance team has turned the DJI Inspire into a flying petri dish capable of tracking whales, flying high above them and gathering bio-samples from their blow. For that reason, the project has been affectionately called ‘SnotBot‘.

These samples contain a huge amount of biological data that scientists can use to study the health of not just of that particular whale, but of its habitat, diet and much more. Because whales are at the top of the food chain, they carry around an incredible amount of information that scientists can study.

The challenge is gathering that data.

Ocean Alliance

Christian Miller, Ocean Alliance

Are drones the future of whale research?

It’s only when you find out how things used to be done that you realize how much of an impact drones are making in marine conservation. Speaking to WeTalkUAV, Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr described how traditional methods of gathering whale data are both dangerous and inefficient.

“Until now the act of collecting biological data has likely caused the animal stress, so you can’t gauge how stressed the animals are by other human activities – think of the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle. SnotBot changes this and at a price point that means it can be adopted by biologists worldwide.”

Before someone came up with the idea to attach a petri dish to a drone, marine biologists had to take physical samples using crossbows – something that put crews and whales in danger. Now data can be gathered without the whale even realizing.

Read more: HexH2o Pro V2 – New Waterproof DJI Inspire Drone?

ocean alliance modified dji inspire

A modified DJI Inspire 1 is the perfect flying petri dish

And then there’s the cost factor. Kerr points out that the old style of manned expeditions would take far longer and don’t come cheap.  Importantly, they are more expensive than many environmental organizations can afford on a regular basis.

But drones appear to offer the solution to all of those issues. They are cheaper, a one-off payment, much faster and more reliable than traditional methods of data gathering, and accessible enough that any budding conservationist can get out there and collect their own samples.

The DJI Inspire 1 still doing what it does best

Ocean Alliance DJI whale

Christian Miller, Ocean Alliance

As well as using the Inspire 1 for slightly unconventional purposes, Ocean Alliance also uses its DJI drones for exactly what the manufacturer intended: incredible aerial photography.


A southern right whale mother and calf during an expedition in Patagonia.

But these images aren’t just for show. As Dr. Kerr explains, “from our drones, we have photographs that can be used to estimate the size of individual whales, video footage that we can use to observe animal behavior, as well as the exact time and position of the sighting.”

snotbot ocean alliance whale drone

Christian Miller, Ocean Alliance

So there you have it.

DJI drones are being used to save the world, one whale research trip at a time. It’s another great example of drone technology being used to save money, cut out dangerous practices and improve the end result.

If you’re interested in finding out more or supporting the work of Ocean Alliance, visit the organization’s website to read more.


Our Videos