Is a Robo Bee in Our Future?

Will honeybees welcome the idea of a drone to help them in their role as pollinators, or will they feel their prime function is being usurped by foam core, plastic and propellers?

Anna Haldewang, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia, developed what she calls “Plan Bee,” a “personal robotic bee controlled by a smart device and designed to mimic how bees pollinate flowers and crops,” according to a CNN article last month.

Haldewang says her goal is to call attention to the important role honeybees play in our food chain, to raise awareness of the dangers caused by Colony Collapse Disorder, and to create a tool that will illustrate the wonders of pollination. An actual bee is so small “that you don’t notice how … it’s pollinating flowers,” she told CNN. “With the drone, you can see how the process works.” And when it is flipped upside down, “it looks like a flower.”

The prototype is yellow and black, but that’s about the only nod to the insect it is trying to mimic. Plan Bee is made with lightweight foam core, a plastic shell and propellers to keep it in the air. “Each of the drone’s six sections has tiny holes underneath through which the devices sucks in pollen from a flower,” then stores it in a body cavity before it is “expelled for cross-pollination,” according to the CNN article.

[Actually, bees suck up nectar, not pollen; pollen is collected in little sacs on the bee’s legs. It’s unclear how this will affect’s the drone’s mechanics.]

SCAD’s design students come up with about 1,600 ideas every quarter, all part of their required  course work. Meanwhile Haldewang hopes to patent her invention, the first step to bringing Plan Bee to market. Whether or not this tiny drone will do the job that millions of honeybees perform every year – without a patent or propellers – remains to be seen. beedrone

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