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Robotic Bee Could Help Pollinate Crops as Real Bees Decline


Robotic pollen collector.

Researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan have created a drone that can pollinate flowers.

Credit: Eijiro Miyako

Researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan have created a drone that transports pollen between flowers.

The manually controlled drone, based on the principle of cross-pollination in bees, is four centimeters wide and weighs 15 grams. The bottom of the drone is covered in horsehair coated in a special sticky gel. When the drone flies onto a flower, pollen grains stick to the gel, and then rub off on the next flower the drone lands on.

In testing, the drone was able to cross-pollinate Japanese lilies, and the researchers found the flexible animal hairs did not damage the stamens or pistils when the drone landed on the flowers.

The researchers currently are working on developing autonomous drones that could help farmers pollinate their crops. The drones will be equipped with global-positioning systems, high-resolution cameras, and artificial intelligence to independently track their way between flowers and land on them correctly.

From New Scientist
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