5 Hilarious Ways Drones Are Doing Good (Seriously)
It seems like every week, there's a new story of how some idiot used a drone to do something stupid, like spy on their neighbors, fly over an airport, or crash into a geyser. And though the human race still hasn't reached peak drone potential (i.e. Flaming Hot Cheetos dropped directly to one's mouth), some people are using drones for practical purposes and solutions to serious problems. For example ...
Scientists Are Using A Semen Delivery Drone To Help An Endangered Parrot Reproduce
If we want to be honest, natural selection has objectively selected the kakapo for extinction. The only nocturnal, flightless parrots in the world, kakapo are native to New Zealand, where they spend their nights waddling around like the lamest starter Pokemon. They're basically beaked Happy Meals for predators, but they're cute and unique, so scientists are pulling them back from the brink of extinction, one newborn chick at a time.
As of 2019, there were only 147 adult kakapo alive, and the lack of diversity has led to problems like inbreeding, infertility, and genetic disorders. Also not helping is that kakapo are apparently dumber about the whole baby-making process than actual babies. This was perfectly evidenced by one male kakapo vigorously mating with the head of a BBC photographer who was coincidentally there documenting the difficulties in keeping the kakapo not-extinct.
Kakapo are basically dumb Muppets whose potential for hookups (if they can even figure out the right hole to stick it in) is limited to other birds in the immediate vicinity. Fortunately, scientists have found a tech-forward way to overcome this issue and potentially save the species: a spooge drone. Nicknamed the "cloaca courier," the drone ferries kakapo semen from genetically strong males to receptive females in hopes of successful impregnation.
Scientists monitor females for signs of fertility, and when all systems appear to be go, they load up a drone and send it to a female, whereupon she's artificially inseminated by scientists in the field. And the process seems to be working. Thanks to a bumper crop of baby chicks, the kakapo population has reached a 70-year high of about 213 living birds. That's a big waddling step in the right direction.
Biologists Are Saving Endangered Ferrets With a Drone That Flings Peanut-Butter-Flavored Vaccines
Despite their popularity as pets for drug dealers and sword guys, there is only one species of ferret native to North America, and it's not doing particularly well. The black-footed ferret was actually believed to be extinct until a pocket of survivors turned up in Wyoming in 1981. Over the past four decades, their population has increased to almost 400 (in your face, kakapo), but they remain extremely vulnerable. Biologists working to ensure the ferrets' survival put their heads together and determined that the best, most logical course of action to prevent them from becoming extinct for reals was loading a drone with vaccine-leaden peanut butter pellets and chucking them at prairie dogs.
To be upfront about things, biologists don't really give two shits about prairie dogs, aside from the fact that they make up almost 90% of the black-footed ferrets' diet. They're basically "the Chicken McNuggets of the prairie," and scientists want to ensure they stay on the menu. Unfortunately, a deadly disease called sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog populations in a matter of weeks, leaving the endangered ferrets with nothing to eat.
Facing the daunting task of inoculating the prairie dogs en masse, biologists decided that hurling food at them was probably their best option. They load blueberry-sized, peanut-butter-flavored pellets containing the live vaccine inside a drone named Shep. Once in the vicinity of prairie dog colonies, Shep dispenses the vaccine via multi-directional "pellet shooters" like "a glorified gumball machine." In a single day, the one drone can vaccinate about 4,000 prairie dogs (assuming they like peanut butter). This delivery method has been a successful, low-cost solution. More than 1 million vaccine pellets were dispersed over 5,000 acres of ferret habitat in 2019 alone. The next step is condiment drones to give the ferrets some flavor options.
Therapy Drones Are Helping Injured Falcons Fly Again
Rehabbing an injured animal in a monumental task in and of itself, but what happens when that animal is a bird and you have to get it to fly again? Well, wildlife consultant and professional falconer Steve Schwartze has an answer, and it involves straight up RoboCopping a dead pigeon to a drone.
A wildlife biologist brought Schwartze a badly injured gyrfalcon (the largest species of falcon). Over a four-month period, Schwartze used raw meat attached to a drone to coax the bird back into movement, first dragging the bait along the ground, then slowly urging her to fly short distances. Schwartze told Vice, "When I took her out the first day she was so weak, she could barely get off the ground."
But in an avian equivalent of a Rocky montage, day by day she gained altitude and strength. "I made her do it over and over," he said. "It's hard work but when it comes to rehabilitation and physiotherapy, you can't make progress by taking the easy route." Schwartze's hard work paid off, and the bird was successfully released back into the wild to fight the falcon version of Ivan Drago.
Contraception Drones Deliver Contraceptives To Women In Remote Villages
It's not just birds who are benefiting from aerial sex services delivery. An estimated 2.5 billion people (40% of the world's population) live in remote areas of developing countries. And living two days of bad road away from the nearest medical facility or pharmacy means you're pretty screwed if problems arise during childbirth, and you're equally screwed if you were hoping to avoid getting pregnant in the first place. So while drone delivery might be a luxury we dream of in the first world, it's a potentially life-saving program taking shape right now in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A program called "Dr. One" ("DrOne," if you need help) uses five-foot drones to fly birth control and medical supplies to hard-to-reach villages in Ghana. Public health specialists with the United Nations Population Fund say the drones have reduced supply delivery times from two days to just 30 minutes -- a huge win for an area with "exceedingly high rates of unintended pregnancy" and thousands of annual deaths from unsafe abortions.
The program has been such an unmitigated success in Ghana that countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Mozambique have all expressed interest in funding their own drone delivery programs. Costing a mere $15 per flight, it's a small price to pay to let rural women fuck freely.
Related: Drones Aren't Weird Anymore!
Researchers Are Using Drones To Collect Whale Mucus And Monitor Their Health
It turns out that a whale's boogers can tell scientists a whole bunch about their overall health, like whether they're sick or pregnant, or how stressed out they are. That is, assuming you can grab a sample in the first place. While getting a vial of whale secretions might be easier than sticking a needle in one to draw some blood (needles make them cry, and we don't have lollipops big enough to console them), it's still relatively difficult. Fortunately, these days there's a (gross) drone for that.
Before drones, the only way biologists could obtain a snot sample was to hang over the side of a boat dangling a large pole over a whale's blowhole -- a process that was quite dangerous, largely ineffective, and vaguely pervy. Today, scientists use a specially designed drone called a SnotBot, which basically follows a whale around and waits for it to sneeze. When the whale breaks the surface of the water and blows out through its hole, the drone sweeps in and catches the snot rockets midair with Petri dishes attached to its body, then returns to a boat with the samples (and to get a tissue).
So enjoy that GIF of a robot getting booger-bukkaked while you can, because when Skynet rises, it's gonna be used to justify a lot.
For more, check out Unboxing A Drone With Michael Swaim? - New Guy Weekly:
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