the drones and the bees
Credit: © Bruce Bennett / Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

As most people have been made aware, bee populations have been in serious decline for quite some time now. Though scientists have yet to determine the specific cause for the dwindling numbers of these important pollinators, other scientists apparently aren’t waiting around to find out: Instead, a team of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have opted to work on a potential automated solution: a tiny robotic bee drone.

At just 1.5 inches wide and a half ounce in weight, this robotic bee replacement isn’t quite as small as its living counterpart, but is impressively close. The tiny drone flies by way of four miniature top-mounted propellers while the bottom of the drone does all the dirty work. A strip of horsehair coated with sticky gel is responsible for pollination by picking up pollen at one flower before dropping it off somewhere else. According to New Scientist, not only has the drone proved successful in cross-pollinating Japanese lilies, it also didn’t cause any damage to the flowers’ all-important stamens and pistils in the process.

Despite its impressive test runs, the artificial bee is a still a long way from being a complete insect substitute. Currently, the drone is controlled manually, making it far more labor intensive than just sitting back and letting nature do its thing. Eijiro Miyako, one of the scientists behind the project, says his team is working on adding features like GPS, high-RES cameras and artificial intelligence to make the drones more automated, technology that will take some time to implement. Even then, Miyako says that drones would probably work best as more of a bee supplement than a bee replacement. “We hope this will help to counter the problem of bee declines,” he was quoted as saying. “But importantly, bees and drones should be used together.”

Though who knows, maybe one day this technology could become so good we won’t even need bees anymore? Then we could end up with a lot of angry unemployed bees, and I hate to break it to you, but they can sting!