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Micro sensor package can ride aboard bees

Such a micro-sensor has been devised by researchers from University of Washington and tests demonstrate that the tiny sensor package is capable of recording accurate and useful information. Scientists have devised a sensing system that is small enough to ride aboard a bumblebee. Not only does this sensor enable more accurate readings, the fitting of the sensor to a bee achieves something that drones cannot manage – to fly for longer without running out of power.

With power, the sensor array only needs a tiny rechargeable battery to propel it and the battery lasts for around seven hours of flight. This is sufficiently long for the bee to undertake its search for nectar and when the bee returns to the hive at dusk, the battery is capable of recharging over night.

The device – a sensor backpack – is fitted to the bees’ backs and it weighs just 102 milligrams, which is equivalent to the weight of seven grains of uncooked rice. Several small sensors are fitted into the backpack for the monitoring of temperature, humidity and light intensity. The backpacks can store about 30 kilobytes of data; and work is underway to increase the storage capacity. The researchers call the array a “living Internet of Things.”

The video below shows the sensor equipped bees in action:

Commenting on the technology, lead researcher Professor Shyam Gollakota stated: “We showed for the first time that it’s possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones.”

The researchers will be presenting their findings to the ACM MobiCom 2019 conference. The conference serves as an international forum addressing networks, systems, algorithms, and applications that support the symbiosis of mobile computers and wireless networks.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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