Phase 1









Deciphering the Sperm Whale Language

In Spring 2018 CETI will deploy a suite of drones and underwater A/V arrays to capture the first-ever up close data of communicating sperm whales. With machine learning and AI, a team of partner data scientists will identify patterns, and search for marks of digital or sonographic language. 


DEVICE 1: Buoyancy Controlled Audio/Video ROBOT

This machine will consist of a commercial off-the-shelf A/V payload attached to a custom designed buoyancy control device. The device will allow researchers to triangulate which animal is transmitting click communication and which is receiving it. 

A simplified 360 A/V systems has proven successful in capturing bottlenose dolphin vocalizations in 2017.  Outcomes of these experiments will be featured in two reports for major scientific publications.


$50,000. The cost will cover all construction and materials including consumer off-the-shelf 360 degree cameras, custom underwater audio housing, and buoyancy device to capture the first-ever social behavior and communication within pods of sperm whales.


After strenuous testing, we will deploy the device in Sri Lanka within pods of sperms whales in March 2018. By summer 2018, CETI should have sufficient data to prove click communication exists and possibly to prove if this communication is sonographic. 

Device 2

Drone Identification

Searching for sperm whale pods at sea level is extremely time consuming, fuel wasting, and cost prohibitive.  

The Unmanned Vehicle Scout (UVS) will allow CETI researchers to quickly determine location of sperm whale pods over a 144-square-mile area of ocean. 

This UVS is currently under contract with the University of Colorado Boulder. 


$30,000. Cost will cover all submission fees and equipment for University of Colorado Boulder projects.  

Phase 2


Making Contact with Sperm Whales

In late 2018/early 2019, CETI will attempt to back structurally identical clicks to the animals, hoping to engage the first human-whale discourse.

DEVICE 3: Bav Sonographic Device

This device will record and transmit structurally identically click communication to and from sperm whales. Data from this device, which will operate similar to an ultrasound transducer, will reveal the structure of sperm whale click communication and determine if clicks contain patterned sonographic information, similar to the echolocation sperm whales use to see in the ocean.