Bees pollinate more than $15 billion worth of crops in US alone in just one year. However, bee population has been dwindling that has scientists puzzled as to the cause, and so they are now searching for new ways for crops to be pollinated. Fortunately, a student has developed a small robotic bee that can mimic how bees pollinate plants. The robot is affectionately called Plan Bee, a hand-sized drone that is even colored yellow and black and can store pollen in its body cavity and releases it during cross-pollination. It is the brainchild of Anna Haldewag, an industrial design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Plan Bee was conceived after Anna learned through her studies about the declining bee population all over the world, particularly in the U.S. that is beginning to affect crop harvests.
The project actually started as first as an educational tool to spread awareness of how important bees and other insects are to the food system. Eventually, the design evolved to become like an actual bee that could cross-pollinate plants. Amusingly, Anna created 50 designs for a bee drone before finally settling on the final model which does not resemble a bee at all. According to her, the final design isn’t meant to mimic a bee but just the essence of the cross-pollination process. If you look closely, the drone resembles a flower more. The drone is made of a foam core, a plastic shell body, and two propellers. The drone has six sections at the bottom that all meet and all have tiny holes that lets the gadget gather pollen while it hovers over plants. Later the drone can release the pollen for cross-pollination. Anna has said in an earlier interview that although Plan Bee is still in its early development, she has already filed a patent for the design and technology.
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Anna plans to release the drone on the market in about two years’ time. She and other experts now see Plan Bee beyond just an educational tool, and has earmarked it for bigger purposes. According to Victor Ermoli, the design is outstanding and self-explanatory and it definitely offers a very clever solution to the bee population decline. The drone can be used for hydroponic farming and large scale farming. Imagine farms having small fleets of Plan Bee, and this offers the best way around the problem of cross-pollination so as to improve crop harvests. According to scientists, should bees entirely disappear or at least their population decline by more than 50 percent, this could signify the loss of up to 35 percent of the world’s food supply, and this reality is slowly happening with the present bee population decline. Wildlife authorities in the U.S. have now added bees to the official list of endangered and threatened species. This is especially alarming with the yellow-faced bee, Hawaii’s only native bees.