(Syrcause.com) Dropcopter, a startup that uses drones to pollinate orchards, won $500,000 in the Grow-NY food and agriculture business competition. Combplex, another startup that’s testing the use of lasers to kill Varroa mites on honey bees, was awarded $250,000.
(Phys.org/Norwegian University of Science and Technology) “These materials are really cool. One of their properties is that they expand if you apply an electrical voltage to them, but return to normal when the electrical voltage is removed. You can use this feature to create a small and efficient engine that can mimic the way bees fly.”
(Engadget) Tiny robotic fliers aren’t exactly durable at present, but they may be tough critters before long. Harvard researchers have developed a RoboBee that uses soft, artificial muscles to fly without taking damage. The robot can smack into walls, crash-land or even collide with fellow ‘bees’ without getting hurt.
(TU Delft) Researchers have presented a swarm of tiny drones that can explore unknown environments completely by themselves. The challenge of autonomous navigation was overcome by drawing inspiration from the relative simplicity of insect navigation.
(PBS NewsHour) With bees in decline, some see a business opportunity. A company called Dropcopter is trying to create a drone to spread pollen. Harvard University’s Wyss Institute is designing a miniature autonomous flying vehicle they call the Robobee that might be used for pollination. But some bee experts are skeptical of a technological fix and say we need to focus more on protecting the real live bees that are still here.
(New York Times) For years, scientists have sought to build aerial robots inspired by bees and other flying insects. But they have always run into a fundamental problem: Flying takes a lot of energy. “Having onboard power is the first big step to getting microrobots out of the lab and into the real world.”
(Montana State University) Unmanned aircraft are growing ever more popular — and smaller. But spinning rotor blades can be downsized only so much before air friction overtakes lift force, causing the tiny motors to overheat and fail. Flapping wings, on the other hand, can scale down almost indefinitely.
(MIT News) “We currently have no robotic alternative to bees for pollination of many crops. If we want to grow crops on Mars, we may need to bring bees with us. Knowing if they can survive a mission, reintegrate into the hive, and thrive afterwards is critical.”