Combining drone technology with our flow cytometers is a merge of innovations, getting the best of both worlds: a new way of collecting samples combined with a new way of in situ analysis of microorganisms.
Traditional sampling of lakes and coastal waters for microscopical analysis has some drawbacks:
1) high costs limit the sampling to once per month (or weekly at best): almost all ecosystem variability is missed.
2) sampling locations are few and not correlated with plankton distribution patterns in the water.
3) samples must be chemically preserved which affects the morphology of organisms.
The Pelican drone project tackles all these drawbacks:
1) the autonomous CytoSense and Pelican drone allow sampling and analysis on a daily or hourly basis depending on the application.
2) the drone takes hyperspectral aerial images and finds gradients to locate the optimal sampling points.
3) samples are analyzed without any pre-processing, revealing the true abundance and natural morphology of plankton
4) CytoSense measures optical properties of hundreds of thousands of particles while also taking thousands of high quality photos
The very first flight of the Pelican Drone is expected to happen by end the of 2018, while a diving drone will start with its diving adventures in 2019. Simultaneously, tests will be performed with the selection of sampling locations from the aerial photos and the autonomous delivery of samples by the drone to the CytoSense.