Together with the companies Fluctus Industrial Engineering and Drone Radio Research, Sylphium Molecular Ecology has developed a conversion kit to turn any capable drone into a water eDNA sampling drone. This can be used for quick and easy sampling of eDNA and micro-organisms by means of on board filtration. The samples are taken on site and filtered through a filter capsule. One sample consists of 10 to 20 sub-samples of 50 or 100 ml and are taken by the drone at different places in the same water. This gives a very representative picture of the sampled water. The drone is compatible with the eDNA Dual Filter capsule and the Microbial Dual Filter capsule from Sylphium.

Taking samples and sub-samples in this way is very efficient, simple, fast and can be carried out by one person. The use of a drone for sampling is especially interesting in situations where sub-samples have to be taken at a greater distance or the sampling location(s) are difficult to reach. Think of waters with a large surface such as lakes, recreational lakes and inaccessible wetland wetlands. But the use of a drone can also be very efficient for taking (sub) samples in streams and ditches with high reed beds. A water sampling drone is extremely suitable for the bathing water quality manager to be able to sample the entire swimming area from shore, for example for blue-green algae or swimmer’s itch. The sampling drone is also well suited to determine if rare species are present. A drone can also offer a solution for the targeted control of unwanted species. By determining the presence of these animals with a very high degree of certainty, targeted clamps can for instance be used.

With financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), floats and a prototype sampling unit have been designed with which any capable drone can be used as a sampling drone. The floats are inflatable, easy to clean (decontaminate) and take up hardly any space during transport. Above all, the floats ensure a very stable buoyancy of the drone. The sampling unit is very user-friendly and uses light signals to indicate which actions are being performed. As a follow-up to the prototype that resulted from this ERDF project, work is now underway on making a production version of the sampling unit and the floats. We are also working on the development of our own drone with all the optimal properties for eDNA sampling.