Researchers in the Marine Science and Conservation Division of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke work primarily at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC, and conduct research primarily focused on the conservation, restoration, and ecology of marine life. Dave Johnston and his lab researchers continue to develop technology that can observe marine life with little disruption at locations that are typically inaccessible to more traditional vehicles. The lab has worked to assemble many drones (i.e., unmanned vehicles) that can capture video, photographs, and other measurements. The drones in this research lab are customized with hardware for the particular anticipated use, and other labs at Duke use the data and measurements collected by the drone for research. Results have then been used to count marine wildlife, map territories, and assess animal health and activity.
Marine researchers have an interest in collecting water samples, and sampling via air drones would make the process efficient and inexpensive, especially at locations which are difficult to reach or in cases where researchers would like to collect multiple samples. As a first step in this project, an existing drone could be outfitted to collect and then contain a single water sample near the water surface.
To design and build a drone attachment that, when triggered, deploys a collection mechanism from the in-flight drone, collects a single water sample, contains the sample, and then signals to the drone that collection has been completed.
The device should weigh no more than 500g and should allow sampling of up to 50ml of fluid. Sample collection should be quick enough that a later version of a similar device would be able to collect up to 6 samples during a single 30-minute flight. The full water collection process should be automated, and the device should not require a drone water-landing. The drone should remain in the air during the entire collection process.