Snotbots are drones that do exactly what they sound like they do. They collect snot. Remotely.
Whale snot is important: Scientists can use it to test their hormone levels, which is an important way of monitoring their stress levels and reproductive health. Snot can also reveal viral and bacterial loads and exposure to toxins. It can be used to analyze a whale's DNA, too.
But until Snotbot came on the scene, it was virtually impossible to get a sample of a whale sneeze (a.k.a a blow, where they shoot fluids out of their blowholes). Getting any kind of biological sample meant chasing down a whale in a noisy motorboat -- not fun for such acoustically sensitive creatures -- and shooting them with a special dart.
The Snotbot just hovers over those whale sneezes and gets the goods -- while researchers pilot the drones from as far as half a mile away, keeping the whales blissfully ignorant of their presence.
With the $225,000 they're hoping to raise with their Kickstarter campaign, the Ocean Alliance will take the bots on research trips to three locations chosen for their prime whale activity. Campaign rewards include whale "adoption" ($35), various Snotbot-branded clothing and accessories, and vinyl records of whale songs ($135), among other goodies. High-rollers can go on a whale watch with the Snotbot crew -- or even join them on one of the funded expeditions.