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  • Writer's pictureAzuko

Can bees be deployed by farmers?


Drones are used to collect data from fields. But if something is available that flies all day , why not get help from them . Are we talking about bumble bees ?

Yes, engineers have equipped bumblebees with sensor-filled backpacks that charge wirelessly and collect data on the fields they visit.

A hive full of these cyber-bees could help monitor the health of a field by checking temperature and humidity, as well as watching for signs of rot or distress in the crops.

The University of Washington engineers have designed a “Living IoT” backpack, which is a tiny wafer loaded with electronics and a small battery. This project is led by Shyam Gollakotta.

Best methods for care and handling of these clumsy and fuzzy creatures were adopted by engineers.

The chip which is used has sensors and an integrated battery that lets it run for seven hours straight, yet weighs just 102 milligrams. A full-grown bumblebee, for comparison, could weigh anywhere from two to six times that.

These bees are strong fliers, if not graceful ones, and can carry three-quarters of their body weight in pollen and nectar when returning to the hive. So the backpack, while far from unnoticeable, is still well within their capabilities. This was checked with biologists in the first.

Bumblebees with chip

Why bumblebees were used ?

These bumblebees were used because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where engineers could wirelessly recharge their batteries.

What is the use of these backpacks on bees ?

The backpacks can track location passively by monitoring the varying strengths of signals from nearby antennas, up to a range of about 80 meters. The data they collect is transferred while they’re in the hive via an energy-efficient backscatter method.

The applications are many and various, though obviously limited to what can be observed while the bees go about their normal business. It could even help keep the bees themselves healthy. It would be interesting to see if the bees prefer one region of the farm and visit other areas less often.

If you want to know what’s happening in a particular area, you could also program the backpack to say: ‘Hey bees, if you visit this location, take a temperature reading.

Investigation regarding how bumblebee performs with sensor package

It is of course just in prototype form right now, but one can easily imagine the tech being deployed by farmers in the near future, or perhaps in a more sinister way by three-letter agencies wanting to put a bee on the wall near important conversations.

The team plans to present their work (PDF) at the ACM MobiCom conference next year.

#bumblebees #sensors #checkupofcropshealth #universityofwashington #cyberbees

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