Yes, you heard that right. Science fiction may come to a reality. Engineers and scientists want to build bee drones to replace dying bees!
As a science fan, you must have heard about the mysterious mass death of bees. It is a sad news, and this development is very alarming and threatening for mankind. The honeybee is vital for our food supply as it pollinates one-sixth of all flower plants worldwide!
It is not wrong to state that bees (and other insects) provide us with our food. So, we must be careful. Even Einstein once said that
Scientists all over the world investigate the origins of the killings. Some make pesticides responsible, others parasites or the loss of bee habitats.
There are many scientific approaches to solve the problem. But, have you ever heard about replacing bees?
Listen to this crazy idea:
Scientists want to build bee drones and use them as artificial pollinators. Read on…
Research on Bee Drones or Artificial Bees
Some of you might have come across artificial insect drones in the science fiction TV series Black Mirror. In the final episode called “Hated in the Nation”, the producers present the use of bee drones. They are manufactured to pollinate plants and flowers. But the horror begins when they are hacked and start to attack people…
Scientists plan to make fiction reality to help against the threat of bee deaths.
A Harvard University research group came up with the design of so-called “RoboBees” a few years ago. They built small drones imitating flying bees. Last year they presented the use of electrostatics to attach such drones to surfaces. Imagine a balloon clinging to a wall; the same effect. That means the drones can land on objects.
They are currently working on allowing the “RoboBees” to land on any surfaces. Until now, the drones could only attach themselves to ceilings. The energy supply of the drones must be optimized, too. They must be able to fly longer… But how to pick up pollens?
A group from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan published a noteworthy paper this week. They have presented the first results about the usage of their engineered robot bees. There, Miyako and his workers covered the flying robots (worth $100 each) with a chemical substance called ionic liquid.
In first experiments, they used the gel on some insects such as ants and flies. The results were promising. The gel was found to be sticky enough for attracting pollens. Then, they attached the gel on animal hair and placed the hairy composition to the drone. The drones flew around and could indeed transfer pollens from one plant to another. So far so good…
Is There A Future for Artificial Bees?
Miyako claims that the findings “could lead to the development of artificial pollinators.” He believes that robotic drones could be programmed to learn and perform the pollination.
But how realistic is their use? Scientists are still far away from the situation in the Black Mirror. Is the idea profitable or only fiction?
David Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex in the UK, has his doubts. In his blog, he points out:
He emphasizes that we should rather look to find ways to stop bee killing than preparing ourselves for a world without them.
It will be challenging to program the robotic insects for controlled and intelligent flights. It remains very doubtful that robots can even come close to the efficiency of real bees.
On top of that, estimated Miyako-type drones cost about $100. That is not cheap. How many drones will we need? Millions? We can’t say now if robots really will be the solution for the loss of bees. Improved concepts are required for potential applications.
At least, scientists show their creativity to solve the emerging problems of our future. Who knows? Maybe, one day they will prove us wrong. Until then, we will keep you in touch.