In these turbulent times, it's hard not to believe the sensational headlines that hype automation's inevitable elimination of most of our jobs. But it turns out that bees might be the first species affected by the impending robo-apocalypse. Facing calamities such as habitat destruction and colony collapse disorder, bees might soon be replace by drones. Eijiro Miyako of the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science is using sticky gel to allow drones to transport pollen from flower to flower.
According to David Grossman for Popular Mechanics: "Miyako's not the first person to have this idea. Engineers at Harvard have been working on RoboBees for years. Pollination, after all, is a crucial natural function, vital to mass fertilization of the Earth. The difference is mainly in cost. Rather than spend years developing a perfectly functioning robot, Miyako and his team simply bought tiny drones off the shelf at $100 a pop. They then applied horse hair to recreate a bee's fuzzy exterior, and after that applied Miyako's signature sticky gel.
Using Japanese lilies, Miyako and his team were able to use the drones to transfer pollen from one flower to another. The successful artificial pollination is promising. 'The findings, which will have applications for agriculture and robotics, among others, could lead to the development of artificial pollinators and help counter the problems caused by declining honeybee populations,' Miyako says."