A team of researchers from Finland has created tiny robots that resemble fairies and have the ability to fly. These robots may be used to pollinate important crops worldwide.
Researchers from Tampere University in Finland have developed a new type of robot that is small, lightweight, and capable of flying, which could prove useful in pollinating crops worldwide.
The robots, named “Tinkerbell,” are made of stimuli-responsive polymers that have previously been used to construct soft-bodied robots that can walk, swim, or jump. However, this is the first time the researchers have developed a stimuli-responsive robot capable of flying.
The Tinkerbell robots are highly porous and lightweight, weighing just 1.2 milligrams, allowing them to travel by floating through the wind. They are also light-responsive, which means they can be controlled using laser inputs to alter their shape, direction, or velocity while in flight.
“Superior to its natural counterparts, this artificial seed is equipped with a soft actuator,” Hao Zeng, who is leading the Light Robots group, said in a statement. “The actuator is made of light-responsive liquid crystalline elastomer, which induces opening or closing actions of the bristles upon visible light excitation.”
In the future, millions of artificial dandelion seeds carrying pollen could potentially be dispersed worldwide due to a recent discovery. By utilizing light, these robot pollinators could be directed towards trees and plants requiring pollination.
Creating artificial pollinators like these could be essential in the event that crucial pollinators like bees continue to die out globally.
Studies have shown that there has been a 25% decrease in the number of pollinator species reported between 2006 and 2015, compared to their numbers prior to the 1990s. Additionally, a staggering 44% of managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost to disease between 2015 and 2016.
Human activity is largely responsible for the loss of pollinators. Habitat destruction, the use of harmful pesticides in agriculture and gardening, climate change, and disease are all contributing factors.
This loss of pollinators is already affecting global food production. Approximately 70 out of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food heavily rely on pollinators. According to a study, the decline in pollinator populations has resulted in a 3-5% reduction in the quantity of fruits, vegetables, and nuts we can produce.
While measures like reducing pesticide use and promoting biodiversity can help restore natural pollinators, the robots created by Tampere University could complement the bees’ pollination efforts in crop production.
With successful proof-of-concept experiments completed, the team is now working to make their pollinators even more precise.
Doubt this is in the immediate future…
Do they make honey as well? This is f–k up, pardon my language.
How about instead stop using the pesticides that kill the beneficial insects and instead use natural ways to control pests and plant bug resistant varieties of the plants.
Science can be very helpful, but sometimes science and technology arrogance leads to terrible results. Have we learned nothing from the COVID pandemic or the frequent animal introductions to Australia which keep bringing disasters?
If these robotic bees resemble small insects, would they be harmful to birds if swallowed?