Though considered pests, bees play an indispensable role in agriculture and the pollination of countless crops. Without bees, several varieties of fruits and vegetables would come to an end. The point of worry here is that bee deaths have been on the rise, and the losses are outpacing the colonies’ ability to regenerate. To help plants survive without them, Eijiro Miyako has designed a drone bee capable of artificial pollination.
Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, this little robot bee are capable of collecting and transferring pollen from one plant to another. This ionic liquid gel has a long-lasting lift-and-stick-again adhesive quality, which is ideal for moving pollen from one plant to the next.
First, the biocompatibility and eco-friendliness of the gel against ants and cells from mice was tested, and it was found that it had no harmful effects. However, he found that the gel alone was not enough to hold the pollen. Therefore, they added horse hair to mimic the fuzzy exterior of bees and provided an electric charge to hold the grains. Using fluorescent microscopy, the team observed pollen glowing in test tubes which meant that fertilization was successful.
Since the drone bee must be remote-controlled, it can be difficult to maneuver. “It was hard to control the robotic bees so that they would precisely hit the right targets,” says Miyako. So, he’s further looking into incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), GPS, and a high-resolution camera.
Wondering how would this actually happen in everyday life? Here’s a video that gives a detailed idea about how exactly the process takes place.
If you liked reading this one, check out our Robots Smaller Than The Cross Section Of A Single Human Hair: What For?