According to a number of recent studies, the worldwide “bee problem” that we’re currently experiencing may be quite a bit more severe than a lot of people had realized. United States National Agricultural Statistics, for example, show that the nation’s honey bee totals declined from roughly 6 million hives in 1947 to just 2.4 million in 2008 – or a roughly 60 percent reduction in what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively short amount of time.
Yet at the same time, all hope is not lost. As is true with most of the problems that we collectively face as a society, experts are turning toward the wonders of modern technology for a solution to an issue that could pose massive implications for crops all over the world. More specifically, scientists say that pollinating crops may become easier in the future when robot bees – controlled via GPS trackers – take up the job that their real-life brothers and sisters will be unable to do for much longer. This idea does, however, have a number of interesting caveats that are worth exploring.
The Robot Bee Army: What You Need to Know
To understand why scientists would even be considering an army of robot bees in the first place, you need to understand a little bit more about how pollination works. Three-quarters of the world’s crops – including essential items like apples and almonds – rely on insects like bees for pollination. Pollination gets stuck on the bee bodies as they move about their day and falls off as they move from one flower to the next.
But since pollution, pesticides and climate change are all contributing to the diminished bee numbers that we’re now experiencing, scientists worry that this critical job might not get done at the level it needs to – thus creating crop shortages around the globe.
However, it is now anticipated that “RoboBees” could be programed to essentially do the exact same thing, using robot wings to pick up and distribute pollen instead of natural ones.
All of this would be done using a series of GPS trackers and computers that, every day, would automatically analyze high-resolution photos of pollen-rich areas. The RoboBees could then enter those areas, pick up the pollen and distribute it elsewhere with relative ease. Scientists are even working on technology that would let each RoboBee fly independently from all the others, thus increasing the efficiency at which this job could be completed.
The GPS trackers could be programmed to allow each RoboBee to take a particular route or even to visit individual plans. Over time, these fleets of robotic bees would expand, first taking the form of small groups of 10 but then expanding to 1,000 or more to properly divide up the work.
Scientists insist that the technology to help make this happen is already in existence – it just needs to be applied in the right way. The United States Postal Service already uses similar methods to tell drivers the most precise routes to use to deliver specific items to people on their routes. This is just the same basic thing, but on a larger scale.
As noted, however, this does come with a particularly interesting (and potentially deadly) asterisk. Scientists also warn that the RoboBees could be hacked, as is true with just about everything else connected to the internet. They could even be remotely controlled to deliver a “poison sting” to select targets.
But when you consider that armies of RoboBees themselves are still likely quite a few years off, flying robot assassins are probably not something that we have to worry about just yet. It’s still an absolutely fascinating development, however, and one that has a number of interesting implications for the agricultural industry, in particular, moving forward.