In the wake of widespread bee colony collapses, Anna Haldewang has designed and built a bee robot to help pollinate the flowers.
For nearly a decade, we’ve been haunted by news of declining bee populations and mysterious, widespread colony collapses. While various factors have been identified as contributing to the dramatic decline — air pollution, climate change, pesticide use, habitat destruction — we’ve thus far failed to make progress in restoring bee populations.
Most recently, the rusty patched bumblebee, formerly one of the most common bees in the Midwest, has officially been placed on the endangered species list. Populations fell rapidly, over the course of just a few years. Unfortunately, the rusty patched bumblebee’s swift decline is not a freak accident. According to a report by the Center for Biological Diversity, 347 bee species are currently “spiraling toward extinction”. Since April 2014 alone, populations have declined by 40-60%.
Without the pollination of bees, at least 90 commercially grown crops would disappear. Coffee, lemons, avocado, apples, cocoa, mangoes, strawberries, carrots, broccoli: just a few of the crops that rely on the role of bee pollination. Not to mention honey! In this context, bees are crucial to our survival.
Since the agricultural industry hasn’t been able to stop colony collapse, nor have strides been made to reverse climate change, we’re now turning to new technology for answers. Anna Haldewang, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design, has created “Plan Bee”, a little drone to pollinate the flowers.
Anna’s plan is not only to aid agriculture, but also raise awareness about the importance of bee preservation: “Plan Bee is a self sustainable drone that stimulates the growth of plants by cross-pollination. With this we are further educating the importance of bees not just from a backyard but the agricultural system as a whole.”
The sleek design of the bee drone is protected by a lightweight plastic material, in classic bee shades of yellow and black. The interior is padded with foam and the shape, resembling a flower, is topped off by propellers. The body is divided into six sections, with tiny holes that inhale pollen while hovering over flowers. The bee drone then exhales the pollen while flying over neighboring plants.
The larger than life scale of the drone is no mistake— Anna intends for the bee to be used as an educational tool. “With an actual bee, its so small you don’t notice it and how it’s pollinating flowers. With the drone you can see how the process works.” The plan is still in its initial stages, but Anna has filed a patent and hopes the product will be developed and marketed within the next couple years.