‘Robo-bees’ to help grow more fruits & vegetables

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Bees supply more than just honey.  Without these busy bees pollinating the plants and domestic crops such as fruits and vegetables could be hit hard. More than 75 percent of the world's food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals.

Pollination is basically a difficult task and should not be underrated. The process involves searching flowers and then deciding whether they are suitable and haven’t visited by anyone. After that the pollinator needs to carefully hold the flower, picking pollen up and putting it down in another plant. In all such tasks, the existing pollinators do extremely well as their skills are honed through years of evolution.

The important factors that make insect pollinators like bees are their own decision making, learning and obviously teamwork. Each bee has the ability to decide what flowers are suitable and how to manage their energy usage. But as bees in the wild are struggling with a steep decline in numbers, scientists have come up with robotic pollinators as a feasible substitute.

Russian Scientist Alexey Yakovlev, who is head of TPU`s School of Engineering has presented an alternative idea of artificial bees known as Robo Bees. Also, the buzz about pollination drones is more important than ever and companies like Walmart wants to get in on the task of giving bees a helping hand while investing in advanced robotics.

To recall, Walmart had filed a patent  in March for independent robot bees that can pollinate just like their real insect counterparts. Pollination drones that are very small cameras on the robots not only detects and spots the crops that needs pollinating but the sensitive sensors on it will ensure that successful pollination take place. In the same month five other patents were also filed by Walmart for extra farming drones - one that could monitor ongoing health of various crops and the other could hunt down plant pests removing the need for use of harmful pesticides.

Walmart may be one of the largest companies to currently invest in robotic bees like those in the patent however researchers are hoping to provide more types of pollination drones for additional companies to fund. In 2013, Harvard University researchers had also introduced autonomous flying micro-robots called Robo Bees that used two wafer-thin wings that flapped 120 times per second to fly. Whereas in 2017, a student of Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design created Plan Bee -- pollination drone that could be controlled by a smart device.



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