An autonomous drone that pollinates with a bubble gun

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by Esteban Tejedor

Posted on March 8, 2021

An autonomous drone that pollinates with a bubble gun

Scientists from the Advanced Institute of Industrial Science and Technology, AIST (Japan), present a drone that can pollinate an orchard in much the same way as the bees do.

Many plants rely almost entirely on bees as natural pollinators to produce some of nature's most nutritious foods, but bee species have declined significantly in recent decades.

To compensate for declining pollinator populations, scientists have been trying to create robotic pollination technologies, and this initiative appears to be an effective replacement for bees and butterflies. The key is in drone-bees that deliver pollen-laden soap bubbles. Each bubble carries around 2,000 pollen grains directly to the flower.

The design is very simple: it essentially involves storing a pollen-laden solution in a bubble gun. The pollination bubble projectiles are fired at will in the middle of an orchard, pollinating the flowers as the bubbles appear on their surface, effectively complementing the work of the bees.

The autonomous drone has a 90% success rate from a height of two meters and at a speed of 2 meters per second (meaning that bubbles can be applied while the drone is in transit).

Another advantage of this curious method of artificial pollination is that the solution that carries the pollen grains can be used to support their activity. The team explains that soap bubble-mediated pollen activity remained stable for three hours after pollination, while grains applied through other methods, such as powder or solution, became less effective.

The researchers acknowledge that this ingenious creation is not a panacea, especially since bubbles are vulnerable to changing weather conditions, such as wind and rain. However, it is still a fabulous solution.


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