Whale Snot-Sampling Drones Help Australian Researchers Understand Viruses

Waterproofing the camera-drone was naturally the first thing on the list, here. Additionally, designing a drone that could take off and land stably from the rocking of an ocean immersed boat was equally important. 

“We went through a few different revisions,” said Geoghegan. “Eventually, it worked perfectly.” 

A few miles off Sydney’s shore, the team tracked 19 whales on their yearly migration from Antarctica to Australia, and used the custom drones to collect samples. After genetically sequencing these samples, a wide array of DNA and RNA viruses were identified, many of which were tied to the common cold, encephalitis, and a type of hepatitis.

“The more that we learn about them, the more that we learn that viruses are an integral part of most ecosystems,” said Kenneth Stedman, a virologist and professor at Portland State University. 

Drones, of course, have delivered environmental researchers with an unprecedented ability to study and

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