Robotic Pollinating Bee

Bees are important for the global economy, agriculture, and the general well-being of the environment. However, with their numbers in decline, there is a focus both oh trying to buoy their numbers while facing the reality that humans may need to find ways to complete the tasks they fulfill. A team of Japanese researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology engineered a robotic pollinating bee that closely mimics the movement and the appearance of a real bee, and will eventually be fine-tuned and commercialized to maintain the function of bees if bee populations continue to drop. The robotic bee is just 4×4 cm (which is about 3x the length of the average bee) and weighs about 15 grams (also larger than the average bee, which weighs about 0.6 grams). The robotic bee is technically a quadcopter, using four small propellers to glide from object to object. The bee has to be manually steered but can be flown from flower to flower in tests with Japanese lilies, which bolsters the claim that this robotic bee could eventually supplement the work done by bees in agriculture. The robotic bee was only publicly introduced in 2018, and issues of cost, weight, size, and a lack of autonomous movement limit its current applicability. Over time, and with pressure mounting to protect the millions of dollars in products dependent on bee pollination, the design has the potential to improve.

Van der Schaft, Peter. “Pollination drones assist ailing bees.” Robotics Business Review, March 27, 2018.

Pollination Drones Seen as Assistants for Ailing Bees

Klein, Alice. “Robotic bee could help pollinate crops as real bees decline.” New Scientist (2017).


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