Japanese Scientists Create Robotic Bees for Better Pollination

Japanese Scientists Create Robotic Bees for Better Pollination

Japanese scientists have created small drones which can help bees in taking over some workload of pollination. The robotic bees are tiny and they are capable of moving from one flower to another quite easily. During the process, they can collect and disperse pollen. However, the Japanese team working on the project added that a special gel covering these tiny drones is an innovative concept and plays an important role in pollination function of these robo-bees.

The ionic liquid gel helps these small drones to pick up pollen from one flower and leave it at another, just the way bees do. Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology research team has been working on this interesting project as agriculture experts have suggested that with declining population of natural pollinators, we could see a major drop in fruit, food crop and vegetable production. Bees and other pollinators face threat due to excessive use of pesticides and new viruses causing massive death among some pollinator species.

Dr. Eijiro Miyako led the current project and their research paper has been published in journal Chem. The research team said that their pollinators can be trained by using GPS and artificial intelligence to move on specific pollination paths. The research project is still at a very basic stage and lot of work will be required before such pollinators can be taken to fields.

Dr. Miyako informed that he was trying to make fluids that could be used to conduct electricity, and one attempt left him with a gel that was as sticky as hair wax.

“One pollination technique requires the physical transfer of pollen with an artist’s brush or cotton swab from male to female flowers,” the research paper informed. “Unfortunately, this requires much time and effort. Another approach uses a spray machine, such as a gun barrel and pneumatic ejector. However, this machine pollination has a low pollination success rate because it is likely to cause severe denaturing of pollens and flower pistils as a result of strong mechanical contact as the pollens bursts out of the machine.”

A report published by CS Monitor further informed, “After studying honeybees, Eijiro Miyako and colleagues realized they could use an ionic liquid gel to pick up the pollen from one flower and deposit it on another. But they couldn't paint the gel directly onto the slippery plastic of the little flying robot they were using. Instead, they needed something like the brush-like hairs that pick up pollen on bees. They tried affixed horsehairs to the drone and then added the ionic gel.”

"It is a promising combination of a new development in particle adhesion coupled to existing drone technology," says Carson Meredith, a chemical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology.