A team of Japanese researchers announces the design of a mini-drone equipped with a special gel that allows it to pollinate flowers. What compensate to a certain extent for the progressive decline of bees all over the world.
The information reminds us of an episode of Black Mirror where bees become drones completely beyond the control of their creator. It must be said that the phenomenon is worrying and could have very significant repercussions on the ecosystem. Whether wild or domestic, bees have been dying massively for several years despite their crucial role as pollinators essential for the “proper functioning” of our planet and its biodiversity. Faced with this situation, some are looking for solutions, like this team of researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science (AIST), Tsukuba (Japan) which presents its pollinator drone
This « artificial pollinator » is nothing more than a miniature remote-controlled quadcopter bought off the shelf for a hundred dollars. Under the belly of the device, the scientists glued a strip covered with horsehair to reproduce the tiny hairs that cover the legs of bees and are used to collect pollen. This surface has been coated with an ionic gel offering an adhesive property comparable to that of a repositionable glue. The researchers then flew the drone so that it brushed against the male part and then the female part of pink and white Japanese lily flowers in order to collect and redeposit the pollen. As below:
So, will miniature drones one day be able to pollinate the Earth? No, because it would not be a question of replacing the insects, but rather of supporting them. As it stands, the drone remains much less effective than hand pollination already practiced for certain crops in areas where bees have disappeared, particularly in China. In addition, to pose as an alternative to bees, the device should at least be independent. However, this involves adding cameras, GPS and artificial intelligence. But if this kind of technology ever becomes possible, pollinator drones could help bear the heavy burden of bee populations by decline.