You must’ve heard of the bee problem. For the last few years they have been dying out and the scientists have no idea why. And it’s a big deal for more than one reason; no bees mean no food. And we’re not just talking of the sweet goodness that honey is. Over one third of the food we grow and ninety percent of wild plants is pollinated main That’s why the professor from the Warsaw University of Technology came up with a way to pollinate the flowers when there are no bees around.
The mind behind the project is Rafał Dakowski Ph.D. who got a grant for building „automatic flower pollination system”. He based his project on a small commercial drone. However, Dakowski is against calling his creation a drone. After all, drones are male bees who don’t gather the pollen and are practically useless. So he came up with his own name B-droid. As the name ‘droid’ is taken from Star Wars, Dakowski had to talk to Disney about the copyrights. Luckily, they didn’t make any problems so the robot got its meaningful name.
There’s a large team of scientists behind the project. It’s a collaboration of experts on aerodynamics, robotics, electronics and mechanics since they have to construct and then programme the droid. They also needed a biologist who’d be able to explain a group of engineers how pollination process actually works.
“The most important thing we’re developing is software which recognises colours, shapes and programming that would allow the robot to be able to recognise flowers and steered it to them by itself,” said Dakowski.
Scientists are preparing two versions of the droid: flying and on wheels. At the moment just the ground prototype exists. It doesn’t really look like a bee. For one, it’s much bigger and can’t fly just yet. Two camcorders make for B-Droids eyes and its heart is a computer which sends all the data to a main computer which analysis the landscape in search of flowers and then sends the commends back to the robot. Which means that it’s completely independent and doesn’t need anyone to control it. However, if anything goes wrong, the operator has a button to turn the system off.
The pollinator is mounted on a moving platform and the bot moves when it’s done pollinating one sector. It’s already been tested: on a strawberry and canola fields. So far the results are promising.
But let’s face it, B-Droid isn’t a replacement for bees. While it pollinates the flowers just fine, it cannot gather pollen or make honey. Dakowski and his team are not working on Bee 2.0 so that we can forsake the actual animals. All B-Droid can do is help farmers, who already have problems with growing their crops. Farmers living in remote places where there are no bees, have to hire beehives to get their crops pollinated which considerably raises the costs of growing crop.
At the moment B-Droid is still just a prototype. A cool prototype at that but it’s going to take a while before it can be commercialised. Next year, both flying and wheeled droids are going to be available as demonstrators.