Yes, we want to replace bees with tiny flower-loving robots

Harvard RoboBees Robots Development

Honeybees are very important to humans, sustaining Earth’s dominant species with help of their unique ability to pollinate plants. However, humans are not equally helpful to bees, as bees are dying at unprecedented rates thanks to a colony collapse disorder (CCD) that’s apparently so dangerous, even the White House wants it fixed. While some scientists are trying to figure out how to prevent bees from dying, others are thinking about how to replace them with tiny robots that will be able to take their jobs one day, Business Insider reports.

Harvard scientists have already created RoboBees that are able to lift off the ground and hover while tethered to a power supply, and research continues in an effort to make them more bee-like. The tiny robots will be able to independently perform bee activities, like flying in swarms from plant to plant to pick up and drop off pollen, and return to the hive to recharge batteries.

The technology may only be ready in 10 to 15 years, as scientists still have to figure out ways for the tiny robots to fly on their own, fly fast and well, collect pollen from flowers and communicate with other members of the hive when “attacking” fields of flowers.

“RoboBees will work best when employed as swarms of thousands of individuals, coordinating their actions without relying on a single leader,” Harvard professor Robert Wood and colleagues wrote in the Scientific American. “The hive must be resilient enough so that the group can complete its objectives even if many bees fail.”

What the RoboBees won’t do is make honey like the real bees. Furthermore, since these are basically unmanned aerial vehicles, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re going to be regulated by the FAA.

Meanwhile, regular honeybees are very important to food production. In the U.S., honeybees contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural crops each year, which explains why the White House is worried about their deaths.

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