Hairy Drones Could Function As Bees

First Posted: Feb 10, 2017 03:40 AM EST

People may not expect it, but honeybees are dying at an alarming rate around the globe. To prepare for such form of apocalypse, scientists are looking to find ways of replacing them with robots.

Popular Mechanics reported that bees are not yet in danger of going extinct. However, there have been several species already on the endangered list. Joshua Campbell, a researcher at the University of Florida, told The Christian Science Monitor last year that it is harder to keep colonies alive today than 20 years ago.

To remedy the situation, Eijiro Miyako of the National Institute of Advance Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) Nanomaterials Research and his team created miniature robots that could be considered as a partial solution. Their project -- small drones coated in horsehair and a sticky gel -- could help pollinate crops and help offset the loss of bees worldwide.

"The findings, which will have applications for agriculture and robotics, among others, could lead to the development of artificial pollinators and help counter the problems caused by declining honeybee populations," Miyako shared with Yahoo.

The same article discussed the course of Miyako's experiments, noting that he began experimenting with liquids that could be used as electrical conductors. Among his failed attempts produced a sticky gel that was relegated to storage for a decade, until a rediscovery from a cleanup gave him the idea of reusing it. He then began experimenting with houseflies and ants to see if they could pick up pollens from a box of tulips.

When the experiment proved to be a success, he then moved to drones, coating them with horsehair to mimic a bee's fuzzy coating. He shared in the study that the robots were able to absorb the pollen and could still be flown to a second flower where they can help artificially pollinate plants.

Miyako is not the first, nor the only one to have this idea. Popular Mechanics also noted that engineers at Harvard have been working on robotic bees for ears, especially considering the importance of pollination in the natural world.

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