Around the world, bees are dying. Could micro-drones be the hi-tech stopgap to fill their place in the circle of life?
Well, it’s a definite maybe…
Bees are disappearing around the world. The reason why isn’t understood (theorized culprits range from parasites to climate change to phone signals) but without bees, many plants won’t be pollinated – including an estimated $200 billion of crops worldwide, each year. A team from the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) may have a solution, though.
Their answer is to use a miniature 2-inch drone to carry pollen from one plant to another. In their article, published in Chem, the researchers describe a process of applying a sticky gel to the underside of a G-Force PXY CAM drone in order to have it act as their pollinator.
If all this is sounding familiar, it might be because something strikingly similar was seen in an episode of near-future dystopia anthology series, Black Mirror (and it didn’t go well there – as SPOLIER!!! swarming mechanical bees turned murderous).
Eijiro Miyako from AIST explained his real inspiration to Gizmodo: “TV programmes about the pollination crisis, honey bee decline and the latest robotics emotionally motivated me.”
Likely drawbacks for the proposal include the high cost of the hardware (with similar drones costing anything from £20 to £100) and the need for each unit to navigate the natural environment and operate autonomously (to do away with the need for a human operator for every single unit – or hundreds of operators to replace a single hive).
The pollinator-drone proposal isn’t the only case of life echoing art, however. An app called Luka, which seeks to create a conversational chatbot based on social media posts by someone who has died, drew comparisons to the second season episode ‘Be Right Back’ (it didn’t end well there). Meanwhile, people-rating app Rate Me was similarly compared to the social-approval horror-show envisioned in the episode ‘Nosedive’.