Drone Bee Developed to Potentially Pollinate Crops
JAPAN - What’s the latest buzz in agtech? Lately, it could be coming from bee drones.
While drone is coincidentally a term for a male honeybee, in this case it’s in reference to a tiny flying robot pollinator developed by Eijiro Miyako and his colleagues at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.
With bee populations in decline, the question of how crops will pollinate has left quite a sting that agtech is determined to alleviate. Cross-pollination in plants increases genetic diversity while improving the quantity and quality of crops, and while some plants are self pollinating, others depend on pollinators such as bees to transfer pollen from one plant to another. The race is on to come up with a solution to pollination, and as we’ve reported previously, these aren't the only robobees on the market.
The bee drone developed by Miyako and his colleagues is an alternative solution to use in conjunction with existing insects. The miniature drone is 4 centimeters wide and weighs 15 grams, and the bottom of the drone is covered in horsehair coated in a special sticky gel. When the little robot flies into a flower the pollen grains stick lightly to the gel and transfer to the next flower visited.
In experiments, this bee drone successfully cross-pollinated Japanese lilies without damaging the plants delicate stamens and pistils. The next step for the team is to develop autonomous drones to assist farmers in pollinating their crops. To accomplish this, the drones will require GPS, high-resolution cameras, and artificial intelligence to navigate between flowers and land correctly. However, the goal is not to replace the declining bee population entirely.
“We hope this will help to counter the problem of bee declines,” Miyako said, according to source NewScientist. “But importantly, bees and drones should be used together.”
Will this type of technology become ubiquitous in the search for solutions to the problem of pollination? AndNowUKnow will continue scouting the latest news in agtech.