Robot Bee: Tiny Drone Pollinate Flower Just Like A Bumblebee

Posted: Feb 10 2017, 4:04am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Robot Bee: Tiny Drone Pollinate Flower Just Like a Bumblebee
This illustration shows a radiowave controlled, bio-inspired flying robot equipped with vertically aligned animal hairs coated with ionic liquid gel demonstrates flower pollination. Credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako
  • Sticky gels turn insect-sized drones into artificial pollinators
 

The decimated bee population may lead to the use of tiny robotic drones for pollination purposes.

Bees are fast vanishing from the world especially from the United States. Experts in Japan have taken to using small-sized drones to pollinate flowers in lieu of the bees. The underbellies of these tiny robotic bees are covered in horse hair and a gel-like substance.

The latter is such that its viscosity allows pollen to be collected from one flower and then deposited on another. These drone bees are not supposed to replace the actual bees but carry some of their burden for them. 

The gel used in these drone bees was the result of an experimental error. A chemist was using liquids to make electrical conductors. His efforts resulted in a gel that was as thick as hair wax.

This he considered as a dead end. It was stored away for future analysis. Then one day when it was brought out from its storage place, the gel was the same after a dozen years. 

The viscosity of the gel was intact. Most gels undergo degradation after some time. Yet this one did not change its state. Thus it was a promising substance which could have future applications. Ants had a droplet of the gel put on their bodies and they were allowed to roam freely in a box of tulips.

They collected quite some pollen on their bodies. Also the gel helped keep them camouflaged. This thus meant that the pollinators using this gel could escape detection by their predators. 

A small drone worth $100 was used with horse hair and this gel on its underside. Japanese lillies served as target practice goals for these tiny drones. The pollen absorbed from one flower could be deposited on another.

This had a lot of applications in the fields of agriculture and robotics. Especially honey bee populations could be given some relief via these tiny drones. 

The findings of this research appears on February 9 in the journal Chem.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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