Whale snot drones and Amazon’s sky highway

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Amazon Prime Air delivery
Amazon’s multi-tiered sky highway would help drones avoid collisions with other aircraft.

If signing the bottom of a clipboard from the delivery man isn’t your style, Amazon will be flying packages to your home in the future with robotic drones. Yes, within 30 minutes of ordering from their website, a buzzing machine will arrive with a little bundle just for you. And, while Amazon’s scientists design a superhighway for drones in the sky, other researchers will be collecting whale boogers with Snotbots!

Before we dive under the sea to peek into a whale’s nose, let’s take a look at Amazon’s delivery tech. Their “octocopters” can carry up to five pounds and reach any location within 10 miles of an Amazon warehouse. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, says, “I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.” So, how long until these little guys are zipping through the skies? Well, Amazon is still haggling with the Federal Aviation Administration, the government organization that regulates flight permissions. Public officials, ordinary citizens, and private companies are worried about air traffic problems with drones, which is why Amazon recently suggested a superhighway in the sky. Although they can’t exactly have floating traffic lights flashing red and green up in the clouds, Amazon wants to develop a communication system that’ll allow everything from tiny bots to big commercial aircraft to avoid collisions.

Now, we’re swooping down to the ocean, where scientists are trying to help endangered whales. An organization called the Ocean Alliance is crowdfunding $225,000 to create a Snotbot. See, when whales “sneeze” they shoot out fluids from their blowholes. This unique mixture is a treasure trove of biological data that offers clues to whale health, like revealing their stress levels and whether or not they can have babies. Usually, snot samples are collected by chasing whales in a loud boat and hitting them with a dart. With a Snotbot, the drone can just scoop up the boogers directly after the whale sneezes! 

Drone images courtesy of Amazon.