RoboBee Swarm Replaces Pollinating Insects?

All over the world, honeybee populations are in decline, prompting concerns from farmers - if bees don't pollinate plants, how will they bear fruit?

The Micro Air Vehicles Project is attempting to “push advances in miniature robotics and the design of compact high-energy power sources; spur innovations in ultra-low-power computing and electronic “smart” sensors; and refine coordination algorithms to manage multiple, independent machines”.

We wondered if mechanical bees could replicate not just an individual’s behavior but the unique behavior that emerges out of interactions among thousands of bees. We have now created the first RoboBees—flying bee-size robots—and are working on methods to make thousands of them cooperate like a real hive.”


(Creation of RoboBees)

Besides pollination, this Harvard-backed project has other goals:

  • search and rescue (e.g., in the aftermath of a natural disaster);
  • hazardous environment exploration;
  • military surveillance;
  • high resolution weather and climate mapping; and
  • traffic monitoring.
One of the earliest descriptions of the tiny swarming robot idea is found in the 1941 short story The Mechanical Mice by Maurice Hugi (a pseudonym of Eric Frank Russell's).

This idea was developed later by writers like Ray Bradbury and Greg Bear, who created robot mice and forensic dustmice, respectively.

I should also mention the scarab robot flying insect as perhaps the earliest mention of the idea of a robotic insect.

From RoboBee project page via Harvard Self Organizing Systems Research via Scientific American and Inhabitat.

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