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article imageRobotic insects could pollinate plants should bees collapse

By Tim Sandle     Oct 11, 2018 in Science
Bees, which perform the vital pollination role required for framing, are in decline. In case of an event that wipes out most bees from the planet, scientists are developing robotic pollinators.
The new concept of the robotic bee comes from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. In a laboratory, researchers are developing a robotic bees model that could be used to pollinate plants should an insect apocalypse happen. Developing bee-like robots is not straightforward, given the complexities of bee wing motion patterns and aerodynamics.
These factors are being assessed at a new department at the Dutch university called Robohouse. The longer-term aim is to create a swarms of bee-like drones capable of pollinating plants should real-life insects due in significant numbers.
A world without bees remains a stark proposition. Bee populations are in decline globally. There are several reasons: pesticides, habitat loss, mite infestation and viruses, as Digital Journal has reported.
The robot prototype that has been developed is called the DelFly. The robot is capable of a similar motions to a bee, with the robotic wings beating at a rate of 17 times per second, which is sufficient to generate the lift required to stay airborne and to control flight. According to The Guardian these robo-bees can f y in any direction, and flip 360 degrees around so they can pitch or roll axes, leading to impressive maneuverability. For mimicking the bee movements, assistance was provided from the Experimental Zoology Group at Wageningen UR.
The video below shows the robot in action:
According to the lead designer Matěj Karásek,: "The robot has a top speed of 25 km/h and can even perform aggressive manoeuvres, such as 360-degree flips, resembling loops and barrel rolls...the 33 cm wingspan and 29 gram robot has, for its size, excellent power efficiency, allowing 5 minutes of hovering flight or more than a 1 km flight range on a fully charged battery."
He adds why the development has a local ecological importance: bees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of the edible crops grown in the Netherlands.
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