As even more bee species are joining the endangered species list, researchers are trying to figure out a solution to the problem. One of their proposed measures? Using pollinating drones. But could they actually help?
The number of bee species on the endangered species list has been growing. Presently, arout 30 percent of all the species are considered to be under threat. The matter is even more serious than it would appear initially. According to estimates, about a third of all the world’s crops need help with pollination.
As such, researchers have started looking for solutions. A first move is to try and save, preserve, and increase the number of bees. Another solution? The introduction of an alternative pollination method. More exactly, of pollinating drones.
All these methods have common purposes. They are trying to protect bees and the crucial pollinators. But they are also trying to protect the world’s crops. Many crops, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and chocolate require help in this process.
As such, a team of Japanese researchers has been looking for an outside the box solution. Which led them to develop pollinating drones. They designed a small drone which should be capable of carrying out such a process. According to the researchers, an army of such drones could potentially help the natural one.
Research on the matter was led by Eijiro Miyako. He is a Nanomaterials Research Institute in Japan Senior Researchers. Together with his team, he developed a new pollination method. Research results were released earlier this week.
They were published in the Chem journal. Available online since February 09th, the paper was titled as follows. “Materially Engineered Artificial Pollinators”.
The scientists created an ionic liquid gel. Reportedly, this can pick up pollen from a flower. Then, it could proceed to deposit it on another. Next, the scientists had to determine a proper brush-like pair of hairs.
Which led them to use affixed horsehairs. These were then coupled to a drone. The ionic gel was the last element to be added. The resulting pollinating drone was then put to the test.
Its target? Large, pink Japanese lilies flowers. They were used to determine if the pollinating drones could actually work. And the tests proved their efficiency.
Dr. Miyako himself revealed his surprise. And also his delight at the success of the new process. The research team confirmed the pollination through lab tests. They used fluorescent microscopy. This confirmed that the pollen tubes were indeed growing.
Still, this reported success is just a first initial step. Miyako and his team used the method on a small scale. Research would have to determine the following. They would have to transform these pollinating drones for a large-scale use. One that can be accessible and useful for farmers.
And research has yet to offer an answer on the matter. Scientists are wondering whether a fleet of robotic pollinators could actually be useful. Still, an answer is as yet unavailable.
Most scientists are still reserved on the matter. Transforming this one small drone to a mass-production method is not an easy process. And the costs may also be quite significant.
Biology reasons were also vehiculated. Researchers are unsure if these pollinating drones may not actually harm the plants.
Scientists will continue discussing the matter. Whilst some are quite excited about the process, others still have their doubts. And it still remains to be seen if the pollinating drones would actually be efficient on a large scale.
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