Environmental NGO Parley for the Oceans is on a roll. Just weeks after announcing new partnerships with designer Stella McCartney and Corona, the organization has joined Intel and SnotBot on a mission to Alaska, where they will be using AI and drone technology to collect data from whales.
The expedition is part of National Geographic’s EARTH LIVE, an initiative that will bring a live two-hour broadcast of wildlife programming to National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO networks on Sunday July 9 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
Under the leadership of marine biologist Dr. Iain Kerry, CEO of Ocean Alliance, Parley SnotBot seeks to advance research and education focused on conserving whales and the oceans, the health of which are crippling under the weight of marine plastics and pollution.
Kerr and a collaborative team developed Parley SnotBot modified drones that collect the blow exhaled by whales when they surface to breathe, in order to meet the challenge of gathering data from whales. The blow contains critical biological data, including DNA, stress and pregnancy hormones, viruses, bacteria and toxins that provide not only a glimpse at a whale's health, but that of its habitat as well. The SnotBot devices relay collected samples to researchers on ships for closer examination.
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Intel is powering the expedition with its artificial intelligence and drone technologies to help further the research, which is helping analyze the health of whales, the environment and, ultimately, the health of the wider global community.
With Intel’s technology, whale data can be downloaded from the drones to machines running algorithms that can identify a particular whale and assess its health in real-time. AI allows Ocean Alliance and Parley to access this information even in the presence of confounding factors, such as the whales’ unpredictable movements and limited ocean visibility. It also aids researchers in making timely decisions in their immediate mission and allows them to quickly act on data that informs the longer-term health of the oceans.
“The partnership with Intel is helping us to boost our new approach of ocean exploration, where small and inexpensive research vessels create fast insight and generate big data, without harassing or harming marine wildlife,” said Cyril Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans.