Plan Bee: Tiny drone prototype packs the power of pollination
Alarm bells have been ringing for years about the plummeting bee populations around the world. A new prototype could lend them a hand.
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It’s been a steady drumbeat of bad news for bees, so one student is doing her part to prepare for a potential future without them.
Plan Bee is a cleverly named drone designed to replicate the environmentally critical cross-pollination performed by dwindling populations of honeybees and bumblebees.
The little robot was created by Anna Haldewang, an industrial design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia (SCAD). However, the pollinators’ plight wasn’t at the top of her mind when she started working on the drone.
Instead, the idea came from a professor who tasked her with creating a project that could accelerate plant growth. It was during her early research that she learned of the alarming plunge in bee populations around the world, and that set her on the path to creating Plan Bee.
The device, which can fit in the palm of your hand, is made with a lightweight foam body that resembles a flower in shape but holds onto the bee’s familiar aposematic colour pattern. When in flight, the drone would mimic the flower-to-flower visits made by busy bees, enabling the cross-pollination that is so important to key crops and other plants.
Haldewang says Plan Bee is still a prototype – she worked through at last 50 designs before settling on the current version – and that the drone is still about two years away from production.