Bionic Bees With Electronic Backpacks Could Replace Farm Drones
|futurism.com 12 Dec 2018 at 14:00|
Farmers across the globe are using drones to do everything from plant crops to monitor for pests. But drones are energy-intensive â€” according toÂ University of Washington (UW)Â researcher Shyam Gollakota , most can only fly for about 20 minutes before they need to recharge.
Gollakota and colleagues at UW think theyâ€™ve come up with a better alternative. Theyâ€™ve created what they believe is theÂ first sensor package that affixes to the back of a bumblebee â€” and it can collect data for upwards of seven hours.
Bumblebees typically weigh betweenÂ 150 and 200 milligrams and can carry payloads equivalent to their own body weight and sometimes even heavier.
According to the UW teamâ€™s study , which it published online on Tuesday, each of its sensor packages weighs 102 milligrams. More than two-thirds of that weight is from the systemâ€™s battery, which recharges wirelessly when the bionic bees return to the hive each night.
The rest is from a custom-designed localization system that records the beeâ€™s position, along with several tiny sensors that monitor the temperature, humidity, and light intensity around the bee. These sensors can collect up toÂ 30 kilobytes of data, which the system uploads to a nearby access point after the bee returns to its hive at night.
As for how the researchers went about attaching their tiny electronic backpacks to the bees, that part of the process was actually pretty simple: They placed the insects in a freezer for 4 to 5 minutes. Once removed from the freezer, the bees were sluggish, giving the researchers enough time to fit each with a sensor package.
â€ś[W]e followed the best methods for care and handling of these creatures,â€ť researcher Vikram Iyer noted in a press release .
Hopefully, that means the little worker bees wonâ€™t plan on striking if they do find themselves employed by farmers in the near future.