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Drones to Replace Bees as Key Pollinator of Crops

Feb 10, 2017 10:00 PM EST
Scientists from Japan has developed a flying drone that could help or "potentially" replace bees as pollinators.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As the bee population continue to dwindle down the drain and their chance of surviving becomes slimmer each day the Trump's administration delay their listing as an endangered species, a team of scientists from Japan has developed a flying drone that could help or "potentially" replace bees as pollinators.

Their new drone, described in a paper published in the journal Chem, successfully pollinated Japanese lilies in a controlled environment. However, the researchers noted that it might be still too early for their drone to replace bees.

"TV programs about the pollination crisis, honey bee decline, and the latest robotics emotionally motivated me," said Eijiro Miyako, a chemist from the Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and project leader of the research, in a report from Gizmodo. "I thought we urgently needed to create something for these problems."

For their pollinating drones, the researchers first purchased a two-inch G-Force PXY CAM remote-controlled drone in Amazon for $100. They attached horsehair to the bottom of the drone and covered it with sticky gel that was previously used in their past experiments. The sticky gel is actually an ionic liquid gel, which has the composition suitable for picking up pollen grains.

This is not the first time scientists used drone technology to develop artificial bees. According to the report from MIT Technology Reviews, invention firm Intellectual Ventures has applied a patent in 2015 for their flying pollinators that are guided across the farm using a computerized flight plan.

On the other hand, workers at some orchards in China have turned into a more manual way of dealing with the disappearance of bees. These workers climb trees and pollinate them by hand with the help of long brushes to touch every flower.

Even with the success of their indoor trials, the researchers noted that their drones are not even close to being as efficient as the Chinese workers. Costing $100 each, the drones are very expensive. Additionally, controlling a drone to fly up and about the flower is quite challenging.

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