【无人机授粉成真,减轻蜜蜂压力】

【无人机授粉成真,减轻蜜蜂压力】为应对蜜蜂数量减少的问题,研究人员希望利用无人机代替一部分昆虫完成授粉工作,惠及农业生产。微小的昆虫无人机可以自如地飞行在花丛中,通过底部的马尾和凝胶拿起更多的花粉,传至下一朵花。研究人员希望无人机可以通过 GPS 和人工智能识别路径并自主完成动作。

Could DRONES help pollinate flowers? Scientists test insect-sized machines as fears about bee populations grow

By SHIVALI BEST FOR MAILONLINE

As bee number dwindle, researchers have come up with a solution to help the remaining insects do their job.

A tiny insect-sized drone has been designed which can artificially pollinate plants.

Far from replacing bees, the researchers hope that the drones could help carry the burden that modern agriculture has placed on bees, and in turn benefit farmers.

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The undersides of these artificial pollinators are coated with horse hairs and a gel that is just sticky enough to pick up pollen from one flower and deposit it onto another.

Researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo created the gel by accident, when working to make liquids that could be used as electrical conductors.

One of the attempts generated a gel as sticky as hair wax, which the researchers considered a failure.

But after a decade of sitting in a storage cabinet in an uncapped bottle, it was rediscovered unchanged during a lab cleanup.

Dr Eijiro Miyako, a senior author of the study, said: 'This project is the result of serendipity.

'We were surprised that after eight years, the ionic gel didn't degrade and was still so viscous.

'Conventional gels are mainly made of water and can't be used for a long time, so we decided to use this material for research.'

To find out if the gel could grasp onto pollen, the researchers covered ants in the gel, and left them to roam around a box of tulips.

Compared with ants that didn't have the material applied, the ants with the gel were more likely to have pollen attached to their bodies.

In separate experiments using houseflies, the gel was also found to have a camouflage effect - changing color in response to different sources of light - which could help artificial pollinators avoid predators.

The researchers decided to house the gel on a small four-propeller drone, but found that simply placing it on the smooth surface wasn't enough for it to pick up pollen.

Instead, they found that using horse hair to mimic the fuzzy exterior of the bee, created a higher surface area for pollen to stick to.

In their study, the researchers flew the remote-controlled drones over Japanese lilies, and found that the drones could absorb pollen on one petal, and then deliver it to a second.

This artificially pollinated the plants and caused them to begin the process of producing seeds.

Dr Miyako said: 'The findings, which will have applications for agriculture and robotics, among others, could lead to the development of artificial pollinators and help counter the problems caused by declining honeybee populations.

'We believe that robotic pollinators could be trained to learn pollination paths using global positioning systems and artificial intelligence.'

While the drone is not yet ready to be used in the field, the researchers say that it is the first creative step to addressing a future with fewer bees.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4208624/Insect-sized-drones-artificially-pollinate-plants.html


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