“HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES?”: ARTIFICIAL POLLINATORSMarch 24, 2017
Over the years of watching and reporting on the GMO issue on this website, one of the things that many brought to my attention by sharing various articles and studies, is the apparent linkage between CCD(colony collapse disorder), as the populations of honey bees colonies and other pollinators have dramatically declined since the introduction of GMO foods and the heavy pesticides they involve. As a result, I have also blogged about the latest gimick to "repair" the damage: artificial drones as pollinators. It is, after all, "no big deal" if the world's pollinator population declines or simply goes extinct, after all, they only keep most of the world's plant life going, and most of its food supply going. No big deal, especially if one has artificial pollinators waiting in the wings. Indeed, as I've previously blogged, there were scientists actually seriously proposing this as a means to get around the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder.
Well, according to this article shared by Mr. T.M., it's now actually been accomplished:
The opening paragraphs say it all:
Researchers in Japan have successfully used a tiny drone to pollinate an actual flower, a task usually accomplished by insects and animals.The remote-controlled drone was equipped with horsehairs coated with a special gel, which the researchers say was crucial to the process."This is the world's first demonstration of pollination by an artificial robotic pollinator," said Eijiro Miyako of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Chem.
But many pollinators are under threat, particularly insects like bees and butterflies. They belong to a group -- invertebrate pollinators -- in which 40 percent of species face extinction, according to the same report.The drone is an attempt to address this problem: "The global pollination crisis is a critical issue for the natural environment and our lives," the authors wrote in the study.
The peculiarity of this project is that it focuses on the pollination process, rather than the construction of a robotic bee.As the authors note, "practical pollination has not yet been demonstrated with the aerial robots currently available."However, pollination was achieved on a very large flower, and the drone was not autonomous: "I believe that some form of artificial intelligence and GPS would be very useful for the development of such automatic machines in future," said Miyako.Much work remains to be done before we can emulate the complex behavior of insects and animals: "There is little chance this can replace pollinators," said Christina Grozinger, Director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State University.