Managing hectares of crops is easy as 1-2-3 with the help of bumblebees.
Using drones could be the most practical and easiest way for farmers to monitor their crops, however, drones have its limits. It could rarely fly beyond 20 minutes to half an hour in just one flying unlike bumblebees.
Researchers from the University of Washington designed light sensor backpacks. It weighs almost 0.0035 ounces (102 milligrams) and capable enough to be carried by bumblebees on their backs. The sensor backpacks will gather data for seven hours consecutively over long ranges of up to 80 meters. There is no need for frequent replacement either because these insects can enter their hives to recharge wirelessly and send data.
Shyam Gollakotta led the group of engineers and researchers. The team consulted with biologists concerning the device’s weight since adult bumblebees can hoist pollen and nectar which is three -quarters of their body weight.
“We showed for the first time that it’s possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones. We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries,” emphasized Gollakotta in a UW news release.
The location of the bumblebees will be tracked without the use of GPS. They rather put together various broadcasting antennas. They made the insect’s backpack in a triangular position according to signal strength and angle difference. The live “drones” will transfer data using backscatter, or resonating radio waves from adjacent antennas.
However, there are some disadvantages at the moment since the specimen sensor backpacks could only keep about 30Kb of data. Because of the small storage, basic data regarding light, temperature, and humidity are limited and cannot be controlled, unlike drones. These sensor backpacks are minute wafers equipped with electronics and a tiny battery.
The researchers are optimistic to develop more intricate data gathering technology in addition to live data. Farmers could see their croplands where bumblebees continue to check on their harvests and observing even minute details which high-flying drones cannot.