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Drone-delivered air sampling kit

Sample where no one has sampled before

The Air Thief is a sterile container, with an over 7-hour battery life, long-distance radio telemetry, GPS and a host of other technologies allowing drone air sampling in previously unexplored sites.

Experience built with European Space Agency

The Air Thief sampler started as a succesful entry in the European Space Agency CanSat competition. The team behind it advanced all the way to the national finals and now aims to make the results of months of R&D to the wider research community.

Geo-tagged, fast and sterile measurements​:

It allows to sample over 5 litres of air in just 2 minutes, maintaining sterility over 4 hours and saving onboard log of sampling locations.

Moreover, it is an open-source and therefore is infinitely adaptable. The AirThief sampler is based on Academic Free License and can be easily modified to suit a range of academic studies.  DIY development kits are made available to the research community and can be further modified independently or with support from the AirThief team.

Sterile container, over 7-hour battery life, long-distance radio telemetry, GPS and a host of other technologies allowing drone air sampling in previously unexplored sites.


fully functional probes built for finals of the European Space Agency CanSat competition


industrial, educational and academic partners


fund-raised for Air Thief development


current researchers contributing to the development and research.

(number updated daily).


team members


Our project is open-source; meaning it is accessible to everyone who is willing to construct it themselves, for free. 

It can be fully assembled in one day (3D printable in less than 3 days).

All parts COTS - we provide the list of materials needed here.

The total price of the below 600$

You can view our GitHub page here.

Our expertise:

Numerous tests have been performed:

  • The Altimeter, GPS module and Primary Onboard Computing Unit have been tested separately, and tested in unison. All tests have been passed.

  • The Air Pump was rigorously tested separately and as a component. No heating or power supply problems were detected.

  • The circuitry was tested during two 6-hour missions, the battery supply survived both tests and the CanSat did not discharge or malfunction. No system restarts were observed.

We are currently performing a lengthy investigation to estimate the microbe biodiversity of the Błędowska Desert and to compare it to the biodiversity of the air column above the desert, thus showing how convection, diffusion and deposition affect microorganism dynamics.

We are going to be detecting bacteria and archaea using flow cytometry and selective agar cultures.
We will also be detecting bacteriophages present using selective plaque assay on bacterial samples recovered from Poland's cave-systems. The project will be published in a research article.

Our solution:

sample collection:

The Air Thief is provided with double filter protected sample chamber with sterile release (bio-sampling sterility procedures included) + easily exchangeable filters (small, medium particulate)

Over 5 minutes sampling time resulting in over 5 litres of sampled air

Well adjusted for inaccessible areas:

Aerodynamic shape which reduces air resistance during the flight.  Small volume and mass for optimal drone flight characteristics  additionally, allows the sampler to fit into small crevices and spaces.

Air filtered at site without need to carry large volume of air back to base (> 5l filtered in 2 mins)

Reliable, tested radio communications up to 3.5 km (depends on ground antenna used).


Long-standing battery:
 - 7h of flight telemetry (incl. GPS positions) sent every 2 seconds
  - over 5 mins sampling time

Cheap and quick:

Assembled in less than a day with all parts easily printed and adjusted on average in 3 days. Additionally, most of the components are off-the-shelf and the mounting is universal, but can also be customised

Air filters are easily/quickly exchanged which allows for the sampling of different microbes and air contaminants

Build your own Air Thief

The Air Thief sampler can be constructed using materials provided on our GitHub page here.

DIY Kit is provided at affordable price of $545.


Integrated kit can be purchased for 720$.

AirOS flight software UI

We have also created a software that allows you to detect the altitude and location of your Air Thief Kit, as well determines if the sample has been secured - we have also provided a video detailing the usage of the software below.


Ground station provided:

Ground station connected to laptop via USB cable.

User friendly UI available out of the box. Support available when required.

Assistance with carrying out your research

Support from the team is available in mission design and execution.

Contact us here

Thanks for submitting!

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